It must be very difficult to write a book from multiple perspectives. The characters must come together in some meaningful way so one cohesive story i...moreIt must be very difficult to write a book from multiple perspectives. The characters must come together in some meaningful way so one cohesive story is told, rather than several intersecting stories. Having said that, it should come as no surprise that I think the lack of a cohesive story is one of this book's major flaws. The characters all live in close proximity in a small town, and all either live in, or have some connection to, the local retirement center. But, for the most part, their stories don't really impact each other.
Another major flaw is that the narrative is interrupted by journal entries by one of the characters. If these journal entries had given us any insight into this character that would have been one thing, but they are her write-ups of the dying moments of her clients. Some of them are of characters we have already met at the retirement center, but many of them are people she met in her life prior to returning to the small town where the book is set. If they had been about people we had met, giving some closure to a life we had read about, or even if they had helped us see her character learn and grow, that would have been one thing. But, by and large, they are neither related to the story nor relevant to it.
In a "Conversation with the Author" published in the back of the ARC I received, McCorkle states that she knew all along how one character's story would end, and she chooses to end the book there as well. This is all well and good, except that I felt like she hadn't given me enough about the character throughout the book to earn this ending. Contrast this with other characters, who get more page-time, if not much more development, whose stories are left unresolved.
For all that, there are many good things about this book. Each character's story has something to offer, and I wish McCorkle had chosen to write a book of related short stories rather than try to put it all together as one novel.(less)
Any writer who can write a sentence like "If Byron ever tried to hug [his father], and sometimes he wished he could, the embrace ran away at the last...moreAny writer who can write a sentence like "If Byron ever tried to hug [his father], and sometimes he wished he could, the embrace ran away at the last minute and became a handshake," as though it just flowed off her pen in the first 50 pages of a book sets up high expectations in her readers. Not only is this a beautiful sentence to read, but it also tells us everything we need to know about Byron's relationship with his father.
Joyce's language does not disappoint throughout the book, but the pacing does. There's a lot of tension in this book, which is interesting because it doesn't feel like a lot actually happens. Most of the energy seems to come from the collective inability of all the characters to get beyond their own anxieties and actually fix the situations in which they find themselves. And that's just not something I have any patience for, either in print, or in real life.(less)
There are lots of good things about this book. The main character, Sarah, is incredibly well drawn. Anybody who has ever been in a similar situation o...moreThere are lots of good things about this book. The main character, Sarah, is incredibly well drawn. Anybody who has ever been in a similar situation of people are being mean for no apparent reason will understand exactly how she feels, and Gordan captures it very well (I expect the same is true for the abuse situation). Gordan also gives us several excellent twists toward the end of the story, making it well worth the read.
Unfortunately, there are also some serious flaws, the biggest of which was that I was never able to figure out the motivation of Sarah's employers. Is there such a huge stigma against single mothers in Australia that would explain how mean they were to Sarah? That seems to be what Gordan suggests throughout the book. Or perhaps we're meant to understand that there's something fishy going on with the new management? I kept getting the feeling that there was supposed to be more. I thought there would be some revelation of bribery or kick-backs or something, but the answer seems to have been simply that all the people who worked there (with one exception) were just nasty people who enjoyed making Sarah's life miserable. The motivation of every character doesn't have to be crystal clear, but the treatment Sarah receives at the hands of her employers and "colleagues" forms a large part of the story, and not being able to understand why they were acting as they were was very frustrating.(less)