Friday, February 27, 2009 @ 9:21 PM
I read this book over the past week, and was(am?) torn whether to (attempt to) write a review. I totally got caught up in this story; it's keeper for me, and I know I'll want to revisit this couple again. But there's this bit of reluctance to talk about this book in glowing terms because there's an element to it that makes me a bit squirmy.
Figure if this book is still a keeper, despite the discomfort it causes, then it's worth talking about.
This might be the one time I'm glad there was no synopsis/blurb on the backcover, just a bunch of glowing quotes/blurbs. Usually this marketing ploy drives me batty and I put the book back on the shelf. But it was only after I came to understand what the author was doing--and admittedly, it was almost from the first paragraph--that I referred to the backcover again in disbelief and belatedly noticed the short two-line blurb (more of a tag-line, really) that almost blended into the artwork and was easily mistaken for another cover quote. By then the author's voice, and the characters had already intrigued me, so I read on reluctantly.
I tried to write a review earlier today, but I was on page two, single-spaced, of a word doc before I deleted it, it felt like too much yet too little. So I'm going to go for a point form type of list in the hopes of distilling what I like about the book.
1. The beautiful artwork. While browsing through the used bookstore, the image and warm colors (sepia, cream and gold) caught my eye.
2. I love the author's voice, it's spare and elegant.
3. The characters (main and secondary) are fleshed out and not one-note. They felt real. The reasons for how their personalities are shaped, felt authentic. Particularly for the two leads, as the story takes place over 3 years, you see their growth and change.
4. The conflict is rendered in all it's complexities, there's no pulling punches or white-washing of the issues.
5. The situation is presented with sensitivity, ultimately winning over my natural revulsion (that's seems like a strong word, doesn't it? But there was an underlying discomfort for me reading this story, yet I couldn't stop, until I realized that I was pulling for these two to have a happy ending.
6. The lovescenes were just that. The relationship is very physical, but sex scenes were about the emotion, the wonder, the excitement and discovery, and ultimately about the vulnerability of the characters. Very involved and raw, but without crudity or a hint of titilation.
7. While I had my doubts, I came around to believing that these two were truly in love--the pacing was well done. Then I worried that they wouldn't end up together. While this is a lovestory, it's a fiction novel, not a genre romances, therefore nothing was a given.
So why was this such a disturbing story for me? As the mother in her early 40's of a 20yr son, it was an uncomfortable feeling reading about a 35 yr old woman who is pursued by, starts an affair with, and falls in love with the 15 yr old son of her best-friend.
It feels perverse and suspect recommending this story, like I should be posting this under 'anonymous', and yet the emotion and the tale, the writing craft and the characters can't be denied. I'm not one to pay attention to Amazon reviews, but this time round I'm glad to see there are others who loved this book.
So if you have the same 'squick' button as me, but can get over it, this story is worth reading.
When 35-year-old Aly, a divorced English teacher, meets Tom, the 15-year-old son of her best friend, each feels strongly attracted to the other. As Aly gives in, almost against her better judgment, and begins an affair with Tom, she discovers that most of her colleagues and friends (especially Tom's parents) are aghast at her decision. As for Tom, his love for Aly has cost him his family, his education, and nearly his life. Can this relationship survive? Even though it is difficult to understand just what Aly sees in Tom, in her first novel Highbridge has written a spare and tender account of the ramifications of falling in love with a person whom society deems wrong.