Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Last Letter from your Lover

London 1960: Jennifer Stirling wakes in a hospital to learn that she has survived a terrible car accident. She is the wife of a wealthy business magnate who provides Jennifer with a life some women only dream of. The problem is, Jennifer can't recall who she is or who she was - until she discovers a heartfelt love letter signed with the letter "B," asking her for forgiveness and to leave her husband. It proves to be just the jolt Jennifer's memory needs in reconstructing the past and a love-affair she only half-remembers.

Jojo Moyes (Sheltering Rain, The Peacock Emporium) structures this captivating romance in chapters named for the months surrounding the fateful accident in 1960 and weaves a tale that ultimately unravels in 2003. A modern day journalist, Ellie, caught in the throes of a complicated love affair of her own, discovers love letters misfiled in a newspaper archive. Searching for meaning in her own life and a story that might save her career, she sets out to find and reunite the lovers immortalized on the page. But is it too late?

At times, the shifts of chronology might make the reader feel as off-balance as Jennifer in piecing together the facts that resulted in the accident and its tragic aftermath. But Moyes is an intelligent, engaging storyteller who lures the reader through the complexities of the narrative via dramatic twists and turns of missed opportunities, glitches that keep lovers apart and cliff-hangers that build up reader expectation only to deliver the unexpected.

The Last Letter from Your Lover by Jojo Moyes
Pamela Dorman Books, Hardcover, 978-0670022809, 400 pp.
Publication Date: July 19, 2011

To order this book via INDIEBOUND link HERE

Please note: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (7/19/11), click HERE

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

“When a chapter of your Life Book is complete, your spirit knows it’s time to turn the page so a new chapter can begin. Even when you’re scared or think you’re not ready, your spirit knows you are.”  (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman)

It's 1967 in Willoughby, Ohio, and Cecelia Rose (CeeCee) Honeycutt is no ordinary 12 year-old. Largely abandoned by her father, CeeCee emerges as her mother's self-imposed caretaker - a woman with mental illness who clings to a shining moment in 1951 when she was crowned Miss Vidalia Onion Queen. When CeeCee's mother is killed by a speeding ice cream truck, it would appear as though things have gone from bad to worse, and CeeCee's world has irrevocably been torn apart. But what underlies the tragedy is a miraculous saving grace in the form of CeeCee's elderly great-aunt, "Tootie" Caldwell, a woman whom CeeCee has never met.

Setting off in her aunt's shiny red Packard convertible, which is as colorful as her personality, CeeCee is whisked away to live with well-to-do Tootie in her historic, Greek-revival style home on Gaston Street in Savannah, Georgia. It seems a magical place, and CeeCee wonders if it is providential that she has arrived in the very city to which her mother had always aspired to return. This coming-of-age story depicts a transitional summer for a wounded, frightened young girl who is anchored back to the world via a cast of strong, Southern women - each a survivor in her own right and each with her own unique blend of eccentricities and challenges in the class-conscious, racially-charged south.

It is through the wit and wisdom of these likeable, well-drawn characters--and the climax of the story that centers around a robbery attempt--that CeeCee is rescued and buoyed by the love that ultimately surrounds her. Hoffman has a real flair for turning out lively metaphors that leap off the page, where tight, concise scenes transform this bittersweet story into one full of comfort and hope.

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman
Pamela Dorman Books, Hardcover, 9780670021390, 320pp.
Publication Date: January 12, 2010
To order this book via INDIEBOUND link HERE

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Girl In The Garden

While her lover sleeps, a young woman, Rakhee Singh, uncertain about her feelings regarding her impending marriage, slips off her engagement ring, leaves it on the bedside table and sets off from the NY-Metro area to India on a journey to reclaim her past and hopefully, rediscover herself.

This powerful first chapter that opens The Girl In The Garden, a debut novel by the very talented Kamala Nair, encourages the reader to take up the narrator's cause and travel with her as she goes back in time. Throughout the narrative, she recalls the summer of her tenth year, when her emotionally troubled mother mysteriously whisks Rakhee away from her father and their home in Plainfield, Minnesota and takes her back to her ancestral village in India. Once there, Rakhee becomes acquainted with an unfamiliar culture and relatives she has never known - and she also discovers a walled-in garden hidden in a thicket behind the family home. She and her young cousins have been told the garden is off-limits as a Rakshasi, a witch, is said to inhabit the empty space hidden in the forest. This restriction is exactly what piques Rakhee's interest until she decides to see for herself what resides therein.

Family secrets are at the heart of this quietly told, incredibly gripping novel narrated from Rakhee's point-of-view in one long flashback sequence that depicts a series of fully drawn characters embroiled in domestic complications. The hidden garden becomes a compelling metaphor for what happens when we compartmentalize the sorrows and challenges of our lives. The meaning of love and fidelity, and the consequences of hiding from the truth rather than facing it, are central issues that ultimately force Rakhee to circle back to the present and reconcile her own life.

The Girl In The Garden by Kamala Nair
Grand Central Publishing, Hardcover, 978-0446572682, 320pp.
Publication Date: June 15, 2011
To order this book via INDIEBOUND link HERE

Please note:  This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness  To read this review (in a slightly shorter form) on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (6/24/11), click HERE