14 March 2012

The Possibility of You by Pamela Redmond

Flap Copy from ARC: "1916: It was the one thing Irish nanny Bridget was never supposed to let happen. And then it did. 1976: Nineteen-year-old Billie discovers the family - and a closely guarded secret - she never knew existed. Present Day: After running from herself for years, journalist Cait searches for the mother who gave her away. Three women. Three unexpected pregnancies. Three journeys in search of families both real and imaginary, perfect and flawed."

This novel, told from the points of view of three women in very different times in recent American history, tackles the idea of personal choice and the impact those choices may have not only on one's own life but on the lives of generations to come. Cait is a modern day journalist with itchy feet and a newfound desire to locate her birth mother after she finds herself with an unplanned pregnancy. In 1972, Billie (newly orphaned after the sudden death of her father) travels to New York to meet her heretofore unknown grandmother for the first time, and struggles to piece together her past while facing an unexpected and unwelcome pregnancy. And in 1916 Bridget, a young Irish immigrant finds herself a widowed young mother. Redmond moves easily from one storyline to the one that precedes it, weaving the three women's lives into a unified and related narrative.

'The Possibility of You' was an easy read - once I sorted out in my head each of the three main character's timeframe and storyline, I had no trouble following the changing scenes and stories. There are no complicated plot twists, and honestly the characters themselves aren't wildly complex, although their dilemmas are certainly thought provoking. I sped through this novel, and am eager to read more from the author, whose work I haven't encountered before. I think Redmond tackles a very personal issue with grace, respecting the many possible choices her female characters might make and passing no judgement, only presenting their stories and consequences in a straightforward manner. I give this book 3.5 stars, I think it would make a great vacation read or book club selection.

06 March 2012

Solomon's Oak by Jo-Ann Mapson

Flap Copy: "Thirty-eight-year-old Glory Solomon is struggling to come to terms with life on her California farm after the sudden death of her husband. When two lost souls walk into her life, Glory is completely unprepared for the changes they will bring. Juniper McGuire is a troubled, angry teenager from a broken family, in need of a home and the kind of emotional guidance Glory herself is looking for. Help comes in the form of Joseph Vigil, a wounded ex-police officer, who also bears scars from his past that he is trying to heal. Together these three survivors find in each other an unexpected solace, the bond of friendship, and a second chance to see the miracles of everyday life."

'Solomon's Oak' is a quietly memorable, moving novel featuring very ordinary people struggling to deal with love and loss in the midst of daily life. Glory is a young widow trying to cope with the demands of farm living after the sudden death of her husband; Juniper is a teen foster child grieving not only for a missing sister but for the subsequent loss of her own childhood; and Joseph is a wounded ex-cop, trying to find a new place for himself in the world after losing his careers, his wife and his partner all in a short span of time. With these sad characters, the book certainly might have taken a maudlin and depressing turn - instead, Mapson manages to capture the small joys and the laugh-out-loud moments that make a life, handling tragedy and hope with the same matter-of-fact approach. Though the story starts a little slowly, I suddenly found myself engrossed and finished the book in record time - I think Mapson's tale is delicately crafted and insightful, and highly recommend it as a story about real people and the real ways in which they move through their lives.