Friday, August 19, 2011
We see him again in Santa Barbara, CA, working in a sporting goods store, living in a rented home, and walking through his days as if he is an automaton. There seems to be no joy in his life.
Meanwhile, back in Connecticut, his ex-wife Ruth is facing her own personal crisis; their son Sam has gotten into a bit of trouble; and nearby, the Learner family walks through the dried out terrain of their existence.
We catch glimpses of each of these lives through alternating perspectives. In beautifully crafted language, the author shows us what life is like for each of these characters, and by the time we've moved toward the final outcome, we are completely engrossed in their pain, their outlook on life, and how the events of the past have shaped them irrevocably.
I love the unfolding scenes as they depict this world of After to the reader. Here is an excerpt from Dwight's point of view, showing a reunion between Sam and his mother, Ruth, after Sam has shown up on Dwight's doorstep.
"In my living room, they stand literally wrapped in each other—an image so old and storybook it feels iconic to me, bigger than all of us, a tattered flag flying over our tiny burned-out village long after the war has ended...."
Scenes and language like this fill the pages of Northwest Corner: A Novel and spotlight human frailty like only the great authors of our time can do. This tale earns a giant five stars from me!
Sunday, August 14, 2011
I only had one, and she was so much younger that she didn't feel like a sibling. But despite my own experience, I could connect to these characters and almost feel what they were feeling.
Names My Sisters Call Me was all about disappointments, misunderstandings, misconceptions, and the yawning years that grow after horrendous events that pull a family apart.
Norah, Raine, and Courtney have their roles in this family, and they stick to them with a fierceness that tells us a lot about how one's place in the family seemingly defines us.
But what will happen when the prodigal daughter comes home for another family wedding? Will the hard truths that separated them all years before intrude again? Or will a new understanding bring out a better version of these young women?
And how will an abruptly ended love affair bring unexpected drama into one young woman's new life?
Parts of this story were so beautifully wrought, like the vivid San Francisco settings, that I could literally feel myself there. I could sense the pull of this vibrant place upon Courtney, who went there to "retrieve" her prodigal sister.
I also enjoyed a description in the book about what heartbreak feels like; a moment that captured Courtney's feelings of loss and betrayal about her once-upon-a-time lover Matt.
"How could he look exactly the same as he always did? How could he so nonchalantly shatter all the things I'd believed and bear no outward sign of it? I didn't understand. It seemed to me that if someone hurt you, there should be some kind of boomerang effect. They should get hit with it, too, so it wasn't just you. So they didn't get off scot-free while you marinated in the pain."
I gave four stars to this wonderfully enjoyable read.
Friday, August 5, 2011
Ellis, Julia, and Dorie have been friends since early childhood, but now, separated geographically and by their circumstances, they are looking forward to their summer vacation in a beach house in Nags Head, North Carolina. Dorie's sister Willa has begged her way into the vacation, but Ellis is determined not to let anything annoy her. She has arranged it all online, and of all the women, she is feeling very much in need of something she can control. She has just been "downsized" after a successful banking career, so her future looks uncertain.
Arriving first, she is somewhat disappointed by how much the house needs a major overhaul, but decides to make the best of it. While waiting for her friends, she observes a man in the garage apartment next door...a hunky man. But she is determined to focus on the friendship connections.
When the three friends gather together, they start off the month like a real girlfriend getaway. But all kinds of things happen over the next few days and weeks that turn things into so much more. A stray woman with secrets of her own manages to rent one of the rooms—after Dorie's sister Willa cancels out on them—and trying to ferret out this woman's secrets could turn everything into a completely different kind of event.
Mix in some romance and girlfriend makeovers, and you have a fun page-turner. The thrilling ending has enough excitement to keep the reader turning pages.
Despite these events, Summer Rental was a pleasant, somewhat predictable read in many ways. But the aforementioned elements kept it from being tired or stale, so I gave it four stars.