Crowfoot Ridge
by Ann Brandt, contemporary (2000)
Harper, $6.50, ISBN 0-06-109709-8


I like Crowfoot Ridge despite its too-often-for-its-own-good dips into Hallmark moments and sometimes awkward prose. It tells the story of Avery Baldwin, a woman in her thirties who is trying her best to put her life into a proper perspective.

For one, her marriage is dying because both partners have drifted so far apart in their idealisms and beliefs, and she has no idea how to make things right. Or even if she wants to. Avery's a real estate agent, and her husband Ken is a land developer. Between the both of them, they have turned as much of North Carolina as they could into some ersatz flower garden with expensive condos and golf courses, and Avery feels really guilty for destroying the land she loves.

And she also has never recovered fully from her brief stay at Crowfoot Ridge when she was a teenager. There, she befriended Sylvia Marshall and fell in love for the first time with Mars, Sylvia's older brother. All were peachy until a horrible ordeal tore them all apart. Avery doesn't even know that she bears scars still from that ordeal. All she knows is that after her divorce, she has to return to Crowfoot Ridge. Maybe there, after all these years, she will find peace. And Mars.

Crowfoot Ridge can be very good when it wants to. No matter how cringingly stereotypical some characters can be (the holy all-wise Indian gardener, anyone?) or how predictable the plot can be (Mars' wife, for one), there is always Avery and her emotional confusion which is always real and moving. When it is bad, it is very bad, such as the flowery prose or awkward use of metaphors that draw a chuckle out me. But there's enough to make this book worth reading - Mars, Sylvia, and Avery are always real to me even when the story reaches an all-time low in Hallmark sentimentality.

Even the ending, which is a pure sugar Hallmark moment, gratuitous in its sentimental schmaltz, has me crying in happiness for Avery and Mars. And it closes with one of the best closing paragraph ever.

What can I say? When an author succeeds in making me feel and emote, well, what's a little awkward prose or sappy plot twists? Besides, this is the author's debut, so I can't help but to anticipate her next and hopefully more polished book. Nicholas Sparks can only wish he can do sap this good.

Rating: 83


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