Paperback, 226 pages
Published: March 16, 2010 by Bay Tree Publishing
Melba is in her fifties, long divorced and estranged from her family of origin. Raised by a harsh, joyless father, she rejected her Mormon faith, when she came of age, and left home. She has enjoyed her hard-won independence for over thirty years and has become a tremendously successful real estate agent. Her life changes when she witnesses a fatal accident. She gives up her career and stops driving, launching into a simpler life.
Then she takes in a boarder, gorgeous 28-year-old JoLee Garry, a manipulative, narcissistic woman who brings a string of unexpected guests in her wake. JoLee is a walking tangle of personality disorders. Caught between JoLee and her alcoholic husband, Gary, is their 11-year-old son Matt. He is an imaginative, introverted bookworm, teetering on the brink of disaster in the midst of his parents’ drama. When he comes to Melba’s house for Thanksgiving, both of their lives begin to change forever.
This story pulled me in, becoming more and more difficult to put down. The quirky, troubled cast of characters reminded me a bit of a Larry McMurtry novel. The author exquisitely described their feelings and experiences, especially Melba’s, and she looked at her characters with both unflinching honesty and compassion. I fell in love with Melba and Matt and hated to let them go at the end of the novel.
This book also touches on some interesting themes. It looks at a person trying to live in the world having as little negative impact as possible. It explores the complexities of family relationships. It also looks at what it means to live a life of independence. It allows Melba to avoid heartbreak and betrayal, and it frees her to create a life on her own terms, living where she chooses and making her own decisions about religion, career, and relationships without needing to consider how it affects others. But it also isolates her, squandering her tremendous capacity for love.
The only thing that disappointed me was the ending. There was a long, slow build-up to the climax of the story, then it ended abruptly, without time for a natural resolution. I wish there had been more time for closure with the characters in the story.
This novel is compelling, quirky, and often heartwrenching, and I recommend it to fiction lovers. I look forward to reading more of Barbara Richardson’s work.