by Megan Chance, historical (1999)
Harper, $5.99, ISBN 0-06-108705-X
Megan Chance is an author who writes stories that really make me work to get to the happy ending. But this book sounds like one of those heartwarming Americana that would leave me basking in a nice, pleasant afterglow, so hey, I thought Why not?
Well, I must say this book isn't as tough to read as some of the more gloomy books by this author. But it's still a rocky ride all the way. The story is told by our heroine Lora Cameron, a young woman living in Yakima Valley. Life isn't good. She and her husband are having problems making ends meet, especially after a bad winter, and she is having emotional trauma after a tragedy a while back. When hubby leaves for Wishkah to work as a lumberjack, she is left with young Will Bennet, a man that her hubby Eli has hired to help around the chores in his absence. Will slowly teaches Lora to live again with his unusual way of looking at life, and their friendship prepares Lora to face the worst when Eli faces an awful accident and everything seems more bleak than ever for Lora and Eli.
This is not a messy love triangle story. If you define romance as man-meets-woman, this isn't your average romance then. It is a story of a woman's coming to terms with her past and finding strength to live again and face the uncertain future. But it's a romance nonetheless in my book, because it's a story about relationships.
However, it's not an easy read. I do want to shake Lora at times - she spends Parts 1 and 2 (out of 3) refusing to snap out of her self-pity. She laments on and on about her marriage breaking apart, yet she cannot even say an affectionate word to her husband, even if the man is begging on his knees. She won't read his letters, yet bitterly complains that he and she don't talk anymore. Shall I bring some antidepressants to the pity party, Lora? But I must say, when she does snap out of it, the story begins to shine. Part 3 simply sings, as Lora slowly finds her own strength to deal with the world she has long retreated from. I forgive her for all the headache the initial inertia of hers caused me.
But Will... it's a crime the way he is written. He has little character apart of being a shallow, one-dimensional drifter with jolly ideas. Think of Jack Dawson from Titanic, if you will. A single-minded cheerful man with little other personality trait to make him vulnerable or even human. As a result, every "nugget of wisdom" he speaks comes out hackneyed and makes me cringe. "Everything deserves a change, Lora." I cringe. "You should be happy, Lora." I grit my teeth and cringe. Happy seems to be Will's favorite word. I'm sorry, but everytime he says Happy, I think of Barney singing I love you, you love me, we are one big famileee... Not a pretty picture.
But somehow, despite the whole hokey Wise drifter cliché scenario, I begin to care. I really hate it when two people love a woman, because ultimately one would have to lose, and I grow to love both men dearly. At the end, when I put down this book, I recapped my thoughts about this book. No, I don't particularly care for the story - it's rather corny and Will's a stereotypical caricature of the Horse Whisperer meets Gandhi type. And Lora's often stubborn refusal to snap out of her pity party can be very frustrating, especially when I'm frustrated due to my own overworked life. So no, this book isn't good.
Then I turned to the TV and saw this insurance commercial of a young woman and her young man walking around green trees and blue skies and promptly burst into tears. Hubby scowled at me. "Old woman, what on earth is wrong with you?"
"Will... he... me... eeek," I blubbered in high-pitched Minnie-Mouse-on-helium squeak as I reached for a hankie.
A book that isn't very good in my estimation that still could turn me into a mushy mess by the end. Well, what can I say? If anything, I closed the book with a persistent image of a laughing, cheerful, and innocent boy looking each night before he sleeps at a photograph of a woman he loves but can never have. I find myself daydreaming for days onwards, plotting my own story on how he would find his own happy ending, and fervently hoping that it is his story that will be Ms Chance's next book.
Well, if this book makes me dream, I guess that's a good thing.
This book at Amazon.com
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