Friday, August 1, 2014

A History of the Future

A History of the Future  by James Howard Kunstler
Grove/Atlantic: 8/5/2014

eBook, 336 pages
ISBN-13: 9780802122520
#3 A World Made By Hand Novels
kunstler.com

A History of the Future is the third thrilling novel in Kunstler’s "World Made By Hand" series, an exploration of family and morality as played out in the small town of Union Grove.
Following the catastrophes of the twenty-first century—the pandemics, the environmental disaster, the end of oil, the ensuing chaos—people are doing whatever they can to get by and pursuing a simpler and sometimes happier existence. In little Union Grove in upstate New York, the townspeople are preparing for Christmas. Without the consumerist shopping frenzy that dogged the holidays of the previous age, the season has become a time to focus on family and loved ones. It is a stormy Christmas Eve when Robert Earle’s son Daniel arrives back from his two years of sojourning throughout what is left of the United States. He collapses from exhaustion and illness, but as he recovers tells the story of the break-up of the nation into three uneasy independent regions and his journey into the dark heart of the New Foxfire Republic centered in Tennesee and led by the female evangelical despot, Loving Morrow. In the background, Union Grove has been shocked by the Christmas Eve double murder by a young mother, in the throes of illness, of her husband and infant son. Town magistrate Stephen Bullock is in a hanging mood.
A History of the Future is attention-grabbing and provocative, but also lyrical, tender, and comic—a vision of a future of America that is becoming more and more convincing and perhaps even desirable with each passing day.
My Thoughts:

A History of the Future  by James Howard Kunstler is the highly recommended third book in the World Made by Hand series. These books are set in a future America after a complete economic, political, and cultural collapse has occurred. Epidemics have swept the land and the population has been decimated. In this world, those who are going to survive are forced to live literally by what they can do with their own hands and labor. It is sort of a dystopian pioneer setting - the simple life but in a changed, harsh world.

It is just before Christmas in the town of Union Grove in upstate New York. While there is no electricity, the town is doing what it can to decorate and celebrate a much simpler holiday, but perhaps one with more meaning after the catastrophes of previous years. The New Faith Covenant Brotherhood Church has opened a tavern, a pet project for Brother Jobe, which gives the townspeople a place to fellowship and helps bring a sense of a new normalcy returning to Union Grove. Andrew Pendergast is thriving. He has kept busy, and with his many varied interests, is actually doing quite well in this new world where self-sufficiency is the key.

But then the unthinkable happens - a double murder. It appears that Mandy Stokes, a woman whose sanity is truly in question, has murdered her child and husband on Christmas Eve. She needs to be locked up. The Brotherhood volunteers a place where this is possible and now the town must decide how to proceed. Is there a legal system intact to handle a murder trial? During the same time, Daniel Earle, the son of Mayor Robert Earle who left Union Grove at the end of the first book, World Made By Hand, has returned home. Emaciated, exhausted, and ill, Daniel needs a chance to recover, but even more important is the news he brings of the fractured outside world. 

The series started with World Made By Hand and The Witch of Hebron. Although I have read World Made By Hand, I have not read the second book and had no problem following the story. It might behoove readers interested in this series to at least read World Made By Hand first.

Many of the same concerns I had with World Made By Hand continued with A History of the Future, with the exception of tying up the loose ends of the story. Naturally, if you are writing a series of books set in the same world, certain parts of the story and plot may continue on into the next novel, so that problem was neatly answered.  The female characters continue to feel one dimensional and I still know that people around my part of the country could survive and thrive because they have a wealth of skills and knowledge that the people of Union Grove, NY, are somehow lacking. It is encouraging that the survivors are doing better and learning old/new-to-them skills.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of
Grove/Atlantic for review purposes.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

When Grief Calls Forth the Healing

When Grief Calls Forth the Healing by Mary Rockefeller Morgan
Open Road Integrated Media: 4/29/2014
eBook, 236 pages
ISBN-13: 9781497652088

In 1961, Michael Rockefeller, son of then-governor of New York State Nelson A. Rockefeller, mysteriously disappeared off the remote coast of southern New Guinea. Amid the glare of international public interest, the governor, along with his daughter Mary, Michael’s twin, set off on a futile search, only to return empty handed and empty hearted. What followed were Mary’s twenty-seven-year repression of her grief and an unconscious denial of her twin’s death, which haunted her relationships and controlled her life.

In this startlingly frank and moving memoir, Mary R. Morgan struggles to claim an individual identity, which enables her to face Michael’s death and the huge loss it engendered. With remarkable honesty, she shares her spiritually evocative healing journey and her story of moving forward into a life of new beginnings and meaning, especially in her work with others who have lost a twin.

My Thoughts:

When Grief Calls Forth the Healing by Mary Rockefeller Morgan is a highly recommended memoir of how healing finally took place for Mary Rockefeller Morgan after the death of her twin brother Michael in 1961 when he disappeared off the coast of  southern New Guinea. Mary joined her father, Nelson A. Rockefeller, who was governor of New York, in the search for Michael in New Guinea. He was never found and eventually pronounced legally dead in 1964.

As twins, Mary and Michael were close and had a special bond. Because the interconnectedness of twins was not really understood or accepted, it took 27 years for healing to finally start to take place. Her memoir is divided into four parts. The first two deal with the events following Michael's disappearance. She recalls the search effort, growing up with Michael, and most importantly how family dynamics and the movements of the time help create a toxic environment that didn't allow her to take the steps she needed in order to heal. The third section of the book recounts her experiences with a wilderness healing retreat. In the final section Mary Rockefeller Morgan explains twin bonding and how she now helps those who have lost a twin find healing.

Mary Rockefeller Morgan, LMSW, is a licensed psychotherapist and certified imagery guide and trainer. She has had a general psychotherapy practice in Manhattan since 1991 and is now specializing in twin loss and bereavement counseling.

I found this memoir interesting and certainly it could be a resource for those who have lost a twin and searching for ways to help their recovery. It is also a touching tribute to her memory of Michael and the legacy he left behind. This is a very specific, personal account, however, and not a general guide for healing after the grief of losing a loved one. I also found it rather sad that it took her so many years to find peace and healing, although it is uplifting that she is helping others find healing sooner.


Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Open Road Integrated Media via Netgalley for review purposes.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam: 7/29/2014
eBook, 480 pages
ISBN-13:
9780399167065
lianemoriarty.com.au

A murder… . . . a tragic accident… . . . or just parents behaving badly?
What’s indisputable is that someone is dead.
But who did what?
Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:
Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).
Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.
New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.
Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.
My Thoughts:

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty is a brilliant, very highly recommended novel that closely follows the lives of three woman who have kindergarteners in Pirriwee Public School. This is both a murder mystery and a comedy.

Opening with the observations of Mrs. Ponder, an older woman who lives by the school, we learn about the drunken chaos on the night of the school's annual Trivia Night fundraiser where parents are dressed in either Audrey Hepburn or Elvis costumes and someone turns up dead. The novel then jumps back to the six months preceding that fateful night. Interspersed in the narrative are snippets from interviews of various parents about all the events/gossip leading up to the death.  Who was the victim and could it have been a murder?

The main narrative follows three different women as everyone meets at Kindergarten orientation.
 

Madeline has just turned forty. Her youngest Chloe is the kindergartener. She is struggling with her ex and his wife also having a kindergartener at the same school. And why on earth would her oldest daughter want to go live with her father when he abandoned them right after she was born? Madeline is charming, vibrant, outspoken, and willing to take on the Blond Bobs who run the school.
 

Celeste is the mother of twins, Max and Josh, who are starting kindergarten. Celeste is a beautiful woman married to an incredibly wealthy man but she's been hiding some dark secrets about her marriage for years.
 

Jane is a young, single mother whose son Ziggy is starting Kindergarten. Madeline befriends Jane on orientation day, the same day Jane's son Ziggy is accused of choking another child and, later, bullying. The mother and her sycophant friend immediately make take an adversarial stand against Ziggy, trying to rally the school against the five year old boy. Madeline takes exception to their misguided, but strident, accusations.

The comments from various parents are interspersed throughout the story are like a Greek Chorus of defenders and accusers. Some of their perceptions and alliances are clearly drawn, but there is more than one controversy going on in the school. The comments cover such a wide range of opinions and judgments that it is a challenge to discern exactly who is commenting on what event that went on that night. Clearly, by some of the comments lines have been drawn and some parents are hard pressed to do more than pass along gossip and half-truths.

As I said, this is a brilliant novel. While covering some difficult social issues, Moriarty has managed to make Big Little Lies an entertaining, clever, humorous, dramatic novel that ultimately encompasses some acute discernment into human nature. Along the way, even when the subject matter may be hard. Big Little Lies is very engaging and will keep your attention to the very satisfying conclusion. The three main characters are all likeable and you want to help them overcome their issues. You will care about these women.

This is another very highly recommended book to read this summer.  Might I also mention if you have ever had a child in a school with very involved parents, or if you've ever been part of an organization with widely different participants, or if you have ever witnessed mommy wars and helicopter parents, or if you are even remotely involved with schools, you will find parts of this book wickedly funny, but extremely accurate.

I know Big Little Lies will be on my best books of the year list. It is that good. (While previously mentioned Cop Town was another top read of the summer, it is much darker and grittier than Big Little Lies.) Liane Moriarty has just made a new fan.


Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Amy Einhorn Books for review purposes.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Good Girl

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica
Harlequin: 7/29/2014
eBook, 352 pages
   
ISBN-13: 9780778316558
www.marykubica.com

"I've been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she has her dry cleaning done, where she works. I don't know the color of her eyes or what they look like when she's scared. But I will."
Born to a prominent Chicago judge and his stifled socialite wife, Mia Dennett moves against the grain as a young inner-city art teacher. One night, Mia enters a bar to meet her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when he doesn't show, she unwisely leaves with an enigmatic stranger. With his smooth moves and modest wit, at first Colin Thatcher seems like a safe one-night stand. But following Colin home will turn out to be the worst mistake of Mia's life.
Colin's job was to abduct Mia as part of a wild extortion plot and deliver her to his employers. But the plan takes an unexpected turn when Colin suddenly decides to hide Mia in a secluded cabin in rural Minnesota, evading the police and his deadly superiors. Mia's mother, Eve, and detective Gabe Hoffman will stop at nothing to find them, but no one could have predicted the emotional entanglements that eventually cause this family's world to shatter.
My Thoughts:

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica is a highly recommended debut suspense/mystery novel.
In The Good Girl Mia Dennett, a 24 year old art teacher in Chicago has disappeared. Detective Gabe Hoffman is assigned the case.  Mia is from a wealthy, privileged background. Her arrogant father is a prominent judge who thinks Mia is simple off somewhere being irresponsible, while her mother, Eve, is truly worried about her missing daughter. Mia was supposed to meet her boyfriend for drinks after work, but he bails on her and instead she meets Colin at the bar. Colin, unknown to Mia, has been paid to abduct her and deliver her to the man who is paying him as part of a bigger extortion plot.

On his way to drop Mia off, Colin has second thoughts and instead drives off to an isolated cabin that he knows will be vacant, and keeps Mia captive there in an attempt to protect her. Eve is desperately concerned about her daughter while her husband seems less interested in finding her. Gabe works tirelessly to uncover the clues about her abductor, but he also feels a growing a growing attraction to Eve and tries to stop in to see her as much as possible.
 
The Good Girl is narrated through the voices of three characters: Eve, Mia’s mother; Colin, her abductor; and Gabe, the detective. The actual story alternates between these voices and between the past and the present. We know that Mia survives, calls herself Chloe after the abduction, and has a form of amnesia, but you have to read through all the accounts of what happened to actually get the complete picture.

Don't let the fact that this is a debut novel dissuade you from reading The Good Girl. It is an extremely well written character-driven plot that is very readable. This is a good choice for someone who likes suspense novels but can do without a lot of sex, violence, or language. Naturally, there is a twist at the end. Some readers may have guessed it before the truth is revealed, but others will be surprised.

Now, apparently the narrative is labeled either "before" or "after" in the chapters. This was not the case in my advanced reading copy where everything was presented as one long book with no division. This resulted in a lot of confusion with the abrupt switches in who was talking until I figured out what was going on. I would expect that having the chapters labeled when the action was taking place might have increased my reading enjoyment; however it did serve to highlight the fact that the voices of the characters were very similar, rather than unique.


Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of
Harlequin via Netgalley for review purposes.

Excerpt

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Lucky Us

Lucky Us by Amy Bloom
Random House: 7/29/2014
eBook, 256 pages

ISBN-13: 9781400067244
amybloom.com

“My father’s wife died. My mother said we should drive down to his place and see what might be in it for us.”
So begins this remarkable novel by Amy Bloom, whose critically acclaimed Away was called “a literary triumph” by The New York Times. Brilliantly written, deeply moving, fantastically funny, Lucky Us introduces us to Eva and Iris. Disappointed by their families, Iris, the hopeful star, and Eva, the sidekick, journey across 1940s America in search of fame and fortune. Iris’s ambitions take them from small-town Ohio to an unexpected and sensuous Hollywood, across the America of Reinvention in a stolen station wagon, to the jazz clubs and golden mansions of Long Island.

With their friends in high and low places, Iris and Eva stumble and shine through a landscape of big dreams, scandals, betrayals, and war. Filled with gorgeous writing, memorable characters, and surprising events, Lucky Us is a thrilling and resonant novel about success and failure, good luck and bad, the creation of a family, and the pleasures and inevitable perils of family life. From Brooklyn’s beauty parlors to London’s West End, a group of unforgettable people love, lie, cheat, and survive in this story of our fragile, absurd, heroic species.
My Thoughts:

Lucky Us by Amy Bloom is a highly recommended novel about unconventional familiar ties in their many varied forms and the whole spectrum of luck, good to bad, from 1939-1949.

Right at the start Amy Bloom will hook you into reading the novel, Lucky Us, which opens in 1939 with 12 year old Eva and her mother going to see her father at his home after his wife died. Eva's mother runs off and abandons her there with her father, Edgar, but more importantly this begins Eva's relationship with her 16 year old half-sister, Iris. Eva soon makes it her job to support Iris as she attends and wins various speech contests around the area. The girls ban together to hide the money Iris wins from their father (who would steal it). After Iris graduates from high school (Eva skips several grades and makes it through 11th grade at age 14) , the girls set off together for Hollywood where Iris is going to be a star.

After Iris does start on her way up, she is photographed with another actress and is blacklisted in Hollywood for their lesbian relationship. Francisco, a gay makeup artist, likes Iris and wants to help the girls. Just as he is waiting for Iris to tell him what has happened, their con-artist father, Edgar, shows up. The four then set off on a road trip across the country while preparing for their interviews as a butler and governess for the Torelli family, who live on an estate in Great Neck, Long Island. They get the job and move into the carriage house, where calamity still seems to follow the whole family.

I will guarantee that Lucky Us will keep your attention and glued to the story to the end. Getting to the end will be a rather unpredictable ride. A good portion of the book is epistolary, told through letters from Iris and another character, Gus. As the story unfolds, it is told through several viewpoints, the main narration is by Eva, but others also share a part of the telling, including Iris, Gus, and Edgar. There will also never be a dull moment or a lull in the advancing story as one mishap seems to foretell another.

There are a few short comings for me. While Iris's letters propel the story forward, in some ways it is awkward since she is reminiscing in them about shared experiences with Eva, something you'd likely not write, especially if sending a letter overseas. Additionally the dialogue doesn't seem to be set in the 40's. Finally, it doesn't seem true to life that the gay characters would be so open about their lifestyles during that period of time, along with interracial relationships. Setting those misgivings aside, Bloom does use these character traits to show that a family can be made up of many different people, not always related by blood but by mutual support and love.

 What is never in question is Bloom's enormous talent as a writer and there are several wonderful passages I can't help but quote:

"My father had been a beaker of etiquette and big ideas, Iris was a vase of glamour, and I was the little brown jug of worry."

"...I would have told you that no one came to see someone like me because they were happy. I would have said, People come because they are so frightened, they wake up in a sweat. They look into the well of their true selves, and the consequences of being who they are, and they’re horrified. They run to my little table to have me say that what they see is not what will happen."

"We were like the soldiers in Stalingrad, moving forward only because backward wasn’t possible."



Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Random House for review purposes.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Don't Worry about the Kids

Don't Worry about the Kids by Jay Neugeboren
Dzanc Books/Open Road Media: 7/8/2014
eBook, 178 pages
ISBN-13: 9781497669413


When Jay Neugeboren's first book of stories was published a quarter century ago, it was hailed by one critic as "the most penetrating and superbly written look at adolescence since J. D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye." Since then, Neugeboren has published more than fifty new stories, many of which have won prizes and/or been chosen for anthologies. This volume brings together fifteen examples of his best work--stories that are by turns violent and tender, lyric and stark, terrifying and playful, funny and surreal.
Although the voices and settings of these tales are diverse, their central concerns remain constant. Neugeboren explores the precarious nature of family life and those elements--madness, betrayal, loss--that often shape and threaten it. He writes about the mysterious, sad, surprising, and sometimes beautiful ways in which love expresses itself. He reveals how our choices, large and small, inform and define our lives.
Whether writing about a black American musician in Paris or a documentary filmmaker in Maine, about a boy grieving for the death of his father or parents for the loss of their children, about divorce or city life or basketball or mental illness, Neugeboren brings to his craft a profound knowledge of the heart's imperatives.
This volume is the mature, seasoned work of one of our finest writers.
 My Thoughts:
Don't Worry about the Kids by Jay Neugeboren is a highly recommended collection of 15 short stories originally published in 1997 and now being re-released as an eBook by Dzanc Books/Open Road Integrated Media.

While the protagonist of these stories can vary widely, often they are divorced fathers and/or Jewish men. In several the men have a mentally ill brother, which ties into author Jay Neugeboren's memoir,  Imagining Robert: My Brother, Madness, And Survival. There are a few exceptions to Neugeboren's common themes, such as in "Connorsville, Virginia" where the story is told by a black man.

All of the stories are well written and will hold your attention to the end. Not being a Jewish divorced male from Brooklyn or even remotely interested in sports, some of the stories were a stretch for me. I also felt that many of the female characters were stereotypes and never felt like real people. All in all, though, this is a fine collection and it should please fans of the short story.

Contents:

Don’t Worry about the Kids - a divorced father talks to the court appointed mediator in a bid to get more time with his kids; an excellent story and perhaps my favorite
Workers to Attention Please - a man fights anti-American protestors with the real reason explained later
The St. Dominick’s Game - a young man is giving it his all for the coach, while concerned about his mother's suitor
Romeo and Julio - an imaginative young man with a mentally ill brother thinks he's found his Juliette
Leaving Brooklyn - a young woman is reflecting on her childhood and life
How I Became an Orphan in 1947 - a car crash results in a mother giving up her child
Minor Sixths, Diminished Sevenths - young man living in Paris reflects on when he and his brother were in a band in the 60's
Fixer’s Home - A former athlete was paid off to fix games
Department of Athletics - a 17 year old young man is biding his time while waiting to hear from the right college
Connorsville, Virginia -  a young black man working for a difficult white sheriff
The Year Between - a couple take a year away from each other
Your Child Has Been Towed - a man in Brooklyn ponders his relationship with the library
What Is the Good Life? - a CIA agent sends his daughter to her death
In Memory of Jane Fogarty - a psychiatrist is named as the beneficiary to a patient's insurance policy but his relatives want the money
Tolstoy in Maine -  a filmmaker hiding in Maine has a fling with a woman who disappears, and then her side of the story is told


Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Dzanc Books via Netgalley for review purposes.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Road Ends

Road Ends by Mary Lawson
Random House: 7/8/2014
eBook, 352 pages
ISBN-13: 9780812995732


The New York Times bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Crow Lake and The Other Side of the Bridge returns with a brilliantly layered novel about self-sacrifice, family relationships, and the weight of our responsibility to those we love.
 
Twenty-one-year-old Megan Cartwright has never been outside Struan, Ontario, a small town of deep woods and forbidding winters. The second oldest in a house with seven brothers, Megan is the caregiver, housekeeper, and linchpin of the family, but the day comes when she decides it’s time she had a life of her own. Leaving everything behind, Megan sets out for London.
 
In the wake of her absence, her family begins to unravel. Megan’s parents and brothers withdraw from one another, leading emotionally isolated lives while still under the same roof. Her oldest brother, Tom, reeling from the death of his best friend, rejects a promising future to move back home. Emily, her mother, rarely leaves the room where she dreamily dotes on her newborn son, while Megan’s four-year-old brother, Adam, is desperate for warmth and attention. And as time passes, Megan’s father, Edward, stubbornly refuses to acknowledge that his household is coming undone. Torn between her independence and family ties, Megan must make an impossible choice.
 
Nuanced, compelling, and searingly honest, Road Ends illuminates how we each make peace with the demands of love. Mary Lawson delivers compassion and heartbreak in equal measure in her most stunning novel to date.

My Thoughts:

Road Ends by Mary Lawson is a very highly recommended character study of three members of the Cartwright family, a family which is slowly, tragically falling apart.

Set in Straun, Ontario, and spanning 1966-1969, the large Cartwright family is heading for a breaking point. Lawson focuses her attention on three members of the family: Edward, Megan, and Tom.

Megan has been the caregiver, housekeeper, disciplinarian, and, really, the mother to all of her brothers for years. Her mother only wants to love and care for the babies but leaves the raising of her offspring to Meg, the second oldest and only daughter. Everyone has taken Meg for granted. Now 21 year old, Meg wants to experience life on her own and sets out to live with a friend in London. She has heard the doctor tell her mother and father no more children and she feels this is her chance to live her own life. Before she left, Meg "had started to wonder if her mother was going senile." She is sure that at 45, she can't be but was instead simply not listening to what people are telling her.

Tom, Meg's oldest brother is in the midst of a serious depression since the suicide of his life-long friend, Robert. Tom has a degree in aeronautical engineering, but he's staying in the family home in Straun, Ontario, driving a snow plow, or a lumber truck, just biding his time, reading newspapers, eating lunch at the diner, and becoming more and more closed and emotionally distant.

The father, Edward, is the manager of the local bank but he is purposefully and completely distant and isolated from his family. He eats his meals out, he stays late at the bank, he visits the library, and when home, he goes into his study and shuts the door, avoiding any responsibility or contact with his family. He never wanted the children and he expects his wife to raise them. Alternately, he is afraid if he does discipline his sons, he will become abusive like his father. He turns a blind eye to the problems around him and all the indications that something isn't quite right with Emily, his wife. Edward alternately dreams of visiting great cities and seeing treasured art work, while also reading what is left of the many years of his mother's diaries and trying to come to terms with his childhood.

Meg's arrival in England is fraught with challenges and disappointments at the beginning, but she overcomes these hurdles and with the help of a caring supervisor, manages to land a position that uses her skills at organizing and cleaning. Meg does miss her youngest brother, Adam. She sends him Matchbox cars and is hopeful that Tom will look out for him.

Back in Canada, out of his haze of depression, Tom notices that his younger brother, Adam, smells bad... and apparently has been left to go hungry with no one around to make sure he gets meals, baths, or clean clothes. His mother has had yet another baby and she is holed up in her room, with the baby, ignoring everything around her. His father is as mentally absent as Emily; both are living in their own world. Meg's absence has propelled the inevitable falling apart of the family since she was the caregiver who kept things going and organized.

This is an incredibly well written novel that is a complex character study over a few years of time in the lives of these members of the Cartwright family. While there won't be a lot of action or complex twists and turns, this is the kind of novel that those who love character studies will relish. It also has a distinctive Canadian feel to it. You sense the great burden of snow and more snow, with one blizzard following on the heels of the previous one. It reminded me of the novels of David Adams Richards, with the melancholy that seems to pervade everything. At the end, Lawson does give us a glimmer of hope, even amidst the increasing disappointments, and leaves the reader anticipating that beyond the story there is a hopeful future. It reminds me that even when bad things happen to people, ultimately good can come out of the struggles - that there is a reason for everything.


Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of
Random House for review purposes.