I downloaded this book because the premise intrigued me: A young woman and her family dealing with the aftermath of the death of the younger daughter.
A year ago, Fern’s younger sister, Lily, drowned in a pond near their rural Georgia home. In the year since, their father spends all his time at work and their mother spends all her time cleaning and reading the Bible: “Her days consist of a thousand scriptures and a bottle of Clorox.” And Fern herself didn’t return to college; instead, she remained home with her parents and her grief. She doesn’t socialize much, but unlike her mother, who refuses to leave the house except to go to church, Fern visits regularly with an older neighbor, Fancy, who is every Southern Belle stereotype imaginable rolled into one flamboyant package. Fancy is fun, and good for Fern. But Fancy has issues of her own.
The story starts out beautifully, almost lyrically:
It was sunshine that liked you best. It followed you wherever you went, turning to you like the sunflowers turn their faces to the sky. With your obsidian hair and ivory skin, you were like an ethereal sunlit goddess, too beautiful and too perfect for this world.
You didn’t leave me utterly alone. Still, there are times I forget that detail. It feels odd to think there are others with me in the house. But there are. I have two parents and I suppose in a way they disappeared the same day you did. Though here in form, their bodies are like empty, listless shells. Something inside them has been extinguished and they move about like shadows, dull fragments of their former selves. It isn’t a particularly large house, but apparently it is big enough for three people to lose each other in.
Okay, both those paragraphs could use a little editing, but do you see what I mean? There’s good stuff in there. But then we start getting this:
I scrape the remaining bit of pie into the trash very conspicuously so that Luanne and the other cooks won’t see…
He makes me weak in the knees, he makes it hard to breath…
And so on and so on throughout the rest of the book.
If I hadn’t liked our narrator and the rest of the characters so much, I’d have given up before getting to the 25% mark. But the story itself is good, and there are bits and pieces of some fine writing in here. Unfortunately, it’s all mixed up with the plethora of not-so-fine bits. This is a failing with nearly all of the self-published novels I’ve read: they suffer from a desperate need for a good editor and an anal-retentive proofreader.