It’s nearly impossible to review this novella without spoilers, so let me just say this: James Daniels found a unique way to deal with the memory loss that accompanies his brain cancer, and said method is lovely and satisfying and heartwarming and sweet.
Lucy Hull has a favorite library patron, young Ian Drake. Unfortunately, Ian’s mother doesn’t approve of Ian’s reading tastes, nor of Ian himself, apparently. Early one morning, Lucy opens the library to find Ian camped out in the stacks, having run away from home. He convinces Lucy to take him somewhere else, and she obliges.
What follows is a haphazard road trip from somewhere in Missouri to Chicago and Pittsburgh and points northeastward, all directed more or less by the boy in the passenger seat, with Lucy’s passive acquiescence masking her inner turmoil at being led around by the nose by a 10-year-old. But this journey isn’t about Ian, really; it’s about Lucy coming to terms with her passive acquiescence of everything except her family legacy; and how family shapes who we are whether we like it or not; and how blood will out, regardless.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The short chapters written in the style of various children’s books were amusing and poignant and sharply aimed.
Two years ago, Linda Garbo walked into her friend Luci’s kitchen and found her dead on the floor. Linda’s testimony was instrumental in convicting Peter Garvey, a local mechanic and Luci’s secret lover, of the crime. But lately, Linda has been having flashes of memory, leading to doubts and second thoughts about her statements during the investigation and at trial. Was it really Peter Garvey she saw outside the house that day? Or was it someone else?
Linda sets out to explore her memory, if only to set her mind at ease that she did not help convict an innocent man. But in her quest for truth, she uncovers a few secrets that others would rather have kept quiet. Such is the result of questions raised in a small town.
The story is quietly told, low-key, almost meandering, and seemed to take forever to come to the point. I can’t argue that it’s badly written — it has lovely prose and engaging characters — but its less than 300 pages felt interminable: one of the reasons it took me over a month to finish it. I kept putting it down and walking away.
Truthfully, the way this novel was set up, I fully expected it to reveal Linda as the murderer, who had somehow forgotten she had done it — traumatic amnesia of some sort — and the memories were now surfacing out of guilt over marrying Luci’s boyfriend Charlie within months of Luci’s death. That author Mary Howard didn’t take us there both surprised and somehow disappointed me. I’m sure this unmet expectation has a lot to do with my lack of enjoyment of the story.