Between Here and April: A Novel by Deborah Copaken Kogan (Algonquin Books; $13.95; 304 pages)
Deborah Copaken Kogan presents a heartrending story in her page-turning novel, Between Here and April.
Elizabeth Burns is determined to research and share the story of the disappearance of her childhood friend, April. Following multiple blackout episodes, Elizabeth begins to recall the details of her friend and the rumors that followed her absence decades before. However, as Elizabeth begins to question April’s family members and neighbors, the heart breaking trauma and the revelation of the outcome causes Elizabeth to reflect on her own life and past and reexamine her priorities.
The riveting storyline overlaps Elizabeth’s journey with the details of April’s disappearance and brings the characters to life, past and present. The main character, Elizabeth, is challenged with balancing career and family with the probable consequences for indulging in reckless desires. She must decide what portions of her life are worth mending to protect her own priorities.
She (Elizabeth’s daughter) slipped her mittened hand in mine and squeezed it tight, a gesture whose emotional pull is never diminished. This is all there is, I thought to myself, self-consciously. This is why we live.
Kogan examines the challenges of motherhood and how far some women will go to protect their children and preserve their cherished life and memories. Yet, this is only one of the many overlapping controversial topics presented by Kogan throughout the novel, a few too many for my taste. And although the story also presents some implausible circumstances (such as coming across actual dialogue of April’s mother presented to Elizabeth by a psychologist’s widow), Kogan keeps the reader intrigued through complex, interesting characters and clear, believable dialogue.
A review copy was provided by the publisher. “The perfect book club book.” The Washington Post Book World
Deborah Copaken Kogan also wrote Shutterbabe: Adventures in Love and War.
A review of Night Road, the new novel from Kristin Hannah (Winter Garden).
She’s Gone Country: A Novel by Jane Porter (5 Spot; $13.99; 384 pages)
Coping with imposed life changes is the main theme for Jane Porter’s new novel, She’s Gone Country. The central character, Shey Darcy, is an almost-forty-year-old former fashion model whose image appeared in Vogue and in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. Shey’s glamorous life in New York City is cut short when her husband declares that he’s gay and wants a divorce.
What follows is a sprint back to Shey’s roots in Texas. She takes her two sons to live in her mom’s house on a sprawling family-owned ranch in a bid to feel more secure. This is a tale of growing up to reality and grasping a sense of how to navigate life when the veneer of New York life’s distractions is peeling away.
Author Jane Porter presents the story in a stream of consciousness first person narrative in the present tense. Shey is stuck in her feelings about the life she has been forced to leave behind. She dwells on her husband’s betrayal, the trials of motherhood and her very shaky self-image. Shey’s monologue is often repetitive, and it is a perfect example of self-talk by the mind vs. being in the now, as detailed in Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. Shey loses her way, her sense of now and she’s stuck trying to cope with her brain chatter.
An odd combination of contrasts crop up throughout the story. Men are generally described as hunky or highly attractive, and comfortable with old cars and the peeling paint on the Texas ranch house where Shey lives. Women are depicted less charitably. Porter describes their actions and fashion choices in a way that is just shy of brutal.
The notion of raising boys is foreign to this reviewer, but Jane Porter is the mother of three boys. She makes it seem like a lot more work than having girls. Even though the story is told in the first person, the feelings and actions of the other characters are well-developed. This is especially true for Shey’s two sons. Each has his own personality and needs as together they struggle with having been uprooted from post private school city life and plopped down onto a small country setting.
Since this book is clearly of the chic lit genre, it was amazing to this reviewer that the most sympathy and tears were brought out by someone other than the main character – who knew?
This is a most enjoyable read for women of a certain age. Recommended.
This review was written by Ruta Arellano. A review copy was provided by Hachette Book Group U.S.A. She’s Gone Country was released by 5 Spot on August 23, 2010.