Julie Hedlund's Reviews > Watch Over Me

Watch Over Me by Christa Parrish
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Sep 27, 2010

did not like it
bookshelves: bookmooched, literary, fiction, early, reviewer, arc, 999, challenge, in, 2009, but, no, longer, own

This book fell completely flat for me. The story strings together a whole series of implausible events bound by characters that are at best, skeletal and at worst, downright unlikeable. [return][return]So much went wrong here it's hard to know where to begin. Let's begin with implausible events. One of the main characters, Benjamin, serves in Afghanistan with his lifelong best friend, Stephen. Would the armed forces allow lifelong friends to serve together in the same unit? I doubt it. Ben returns scarred physically and shattered emotionally to his pacifist, vegan wife. Needless to say, there are problems. So it seems plausible that he would, in the line of his detective duty, find an abandoned newborn baby in the woods and bring it home to raise with the wife he hasn't really spoken to in months. Oh, and having a NEWBORN in the home would begin to make things better between the couple!! Sleep deprivation does work wonders for solving marital problems.[return][return]So much is left unexplained, and many threads of the story never lead anywhere. Abbi comes from an economically privileged but emotionally barren family. She's liberal and vegan but we don't know why she developed those views. Her obsession with her weight and the corresponding eating disorder might explain the vegan diet, but not her anti-war stance and her extreme environmentalism. Meanwhile, Ben comes from an immigrant family with parents whose marriage was arranged. The significance of that and how it shaped Ben's views about life, family or marriage is never explained. Nor do we truly understand why he wanted to serve in the military. [return][return]While the author leaves gaping holes in developing the characters, she smacks us upside the head with a brick with near constant references to Abbi's vegan-ness. Okay, we GET it, that she's unconventional and crunchy without constant reminders. Abbi has a nose ring, wears recycled sari skirts, uses baking soda for deodorant, cloth diapers for the baby, eats carob and cranberry bars, her friend drives a Toyota Prius, she drinks soy milk, and on and on and on and on. What would have been FAR more interesting was understanding WHY she did those things. There are vague references to her views being outside the norm in her church. Why? How did her views shape her experience of Christianity? We don't have any idea, but we DO know what she ate for breakfast.[return][return]Then, there are complete contradictions in the story. Abbi's friend Lauren, for example, comes to bail her out of a breakdown. Abbi asks why she's there, and Lauren responds (paraphrasing), "That's the church. We're called to help one another in a time of need. Where else would I be?" This after refusing to speak to Abbi for 13 months because Abbi's husband survived Afghanistan and hers didn't. Seems a pretty sanctimonious statement given their history. It's not that I don't think people can be contradictory, but we don't know how Lauren came to her change of heart because the author only provides a trite explanation during an "all-of-a-sudden" reconciliation scene. [return][return]I could go on, but I won't. You get the idea. I didn't like the book. If you read it, I hope you will. There are a whole set of other characters and story lines, including that of the baby, that are more interesting than Abbi and Ben. I won't go into it here so as to avoid spoilers. My interest in the outcomes for the other characters was what enabled me to finish the book.
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