Anyone who has read Flat Out Love cannot help but admire the artistry that is Jessica Park’s writing. Jessica Park writes about families, those of blood and those we create ourselves. She writes about love, loss and redemption. She does this with such a deft hand it isn’t until the reader stops to think about what they have read that they realize the magnitude of the message conveyed.
Blythe McGuire is barely functioning when Left Drowning opens, she is months from graduation and has managed to avoid contact with everyone for the better part of four years. Meeting the Shepherd family demolishes the walls Blythe has erected between herself and the world after the deaths of her parents in a fire four years prior. Blythe is especially drawn to Chris the eldest of the Shepherd clan and he in turn brings her back out into the light. However idyllic these initial encounters with Chris are, he is harboring secrets that he cannot or will not share with Blythe, secrets that threaten the tentative healing that has just begun.
Left Drowning is an interesting counterpart to Flat Out Love, the reader moves through Jessica Park’s previous novel with an ominous growing suspicion that something is very wrong whereas with Left Drowning there is no doubt. From the opening scene the grief and barely concealed torment of all the characters and the causes is apparent to the reader. I believe that due to the subject matter and the overt sexuality of the story that it would be unreadable in another author’s hands. She expertly depicts Blythe’s slow and painful journey from emotional devastation to a place where if she is not whole she is functional with the hope of better in the future.
I came across Finding Home by Lauren Baker and Bonnie Dee on the Best Older Woman/Younger Man recommendation list from Goodreads while searching for a comparison piece to On the Island. Despite the fact that I determined that this novel wasn’t suitable for comparison, I found that Finding Home had a great deal of merit as a story in its own right.
Megan is a young copywriter frustrated with her inability to get a writing assignment at the paper where she works. Impetuously she decides to take the initiative to find her own story if the powers that be will not give her one to cover. She quickly makes a place for herself among the youth working the street, guided by Mouth, a homeless teen who supports himself largely through prostitution. After he is beaten and robbed Megan takes him in to the consternation of her friends and family setting the stage for an unusual romance.
Perhaps I am in the minority but the age difference in this novel seemed pretty unobjectionable considering the context of the story itself. The other challenges, mainly his past, that they would face as a couple it would seem that the difference in their ages was paltry at best. Regardless, Baker and Dee have created a highly readable story filled with the angst and grit that you would imagine is intrinsic to life on the street.
If Tracey Garvis Graves’ On the Island was an idealized version of the romance between a teen-aged boy and a woman in her third decade A Much Younger Man by Dianne Highbridge is the real story.
Aly is a teacher and has a distinct air of melancholia about her. She meets Tom on the train coming home from work and cannot place him at first, he is the 15 year old son of a once close friend from whom she has drifted away. Aly is not a predator, she doesn’t harbor lascivious thoughts about the children she teaches and Tom is uncommonly mature and cultured for his age. Despite the implausibility of a relationship between a 35 year old woman and a boy 20 years her junior Ms Highbridge has managed to craft a believable, realistic tale.
A woman and a boy catch sight of each other one afternoon on a train, an old man trips, a possum darts across a wet road. These are the things you can never foretell, the true coincidences.
A Much Younger Man
They are two people who do not quite fit into the world they inhabit, Aly is emotionally damaged from an abusive marriage and Tom is the product of two professionals he has been well educated culturally and socially. It still begs the question what would a then 15 year old boy see in a woman who is one of his mother’s peers? But that question isn’t as glaring as it would be in the hands of a less accomplished storyteller. It is inevitable that their relationship would face obstacles perhaps too easily surpassed in On the Island. That being said A Much Younger Man is a strangely compelling thought provoking tale that should not be missed.
I have read the following statement a number of times in reviews where it seems that the writer wants to soften the blow and it is applicable in my case as well. I really wanted to likeLosing It, I adore the plot device, the oft used yet somehow never old one of, mistaken identity or perhaps not even bothering with the identity part at all. It sparked the relationship at the center of the wildly successful television show Grey’s Anatomy spawning one of the greatest television super couples of recent memory, yet somehow it falls short in Cora Carmack’s debut novel.
Bliss is a 22 year old theater student in her final year of school and *gasp* a virgin! Why? As far as I could ascertain because she is completely and absolutely neurotic and not in that appealing Woody Allenesque fashion from his Annie Hall years. The story opens with confessing her dark secret to her bully of a best friend whose solution is to drag her bodily off to the bar and find the first halfway appealing man to deflower our Bliss.
Enter Garrick, a gorgeous Brit simply minding his own business reading Shakespeare in the corner. A perfect candidate to help Bliss out of her current predicament, how she could look this gift horse in the mouth I do not know. They end up at her place moments from “fait accompli” when Bliss chokes coming up with possibly the lamest excuse of all time and runs off. Of course the next morning when she attends class her new theater professor is none other than the plummy Garrick from the night before.
Throughout the novel the reader is never sure what precisely Garrick sees in Bliss and Bliss is one of those adolescent seeming characters who don’t seem to have a clear idea of what they want. In and of itself not an objectionable trait but there seems to be no real reason why Bliss has remained a virgin so long. Is she waiting for religious reasons? Fine. Has she been unlucky? No. This character was extremely hard for me to relate to not because of her age or even her virginity but because she seemed to have no clear reasoning for the choices she made. It was difficult to see how other characters would find her arbitrary nature attractive. Her character lacked motivation and thus I found the momentum in the story itself lacking as well.
Losing It was a fluffy enjoyable read but just not for me.
The first night after Caroline moves into her fantastic new San Francisco apartment, she realizes she’s gaining an intimate knowledge of her new neighbor’s nocturnal adventures. Thanks to paper-thin walls and the guy’s athletic prowess, she can hear not just his bed banging against the wall but the ecstatic response of what seems (as loud night after loud night goes by) like an endless parade of women. And since Caroline is currently on a self-imposed dating hiatus, and her neighbor is clearly lethally attractive to women, she finds her fantasies keep her awake even longer than the noise. So when the wallbanging threatens to literally bounce her out of bed, Caroline, clad in sexual frustration and a pink baby-doll nightie, confronts Simon Parker, her heard-but-never-seen neighbor. The tension between them is as thick as the walls are thin, and the results just as mixed. Suddenly, Caroline is finding she may have discovered a whole new definition of neighborly…
Wallbanger by Alice Clayton is in a word FUN. I hadn’t even finished it before starting this review. When we meet Caroline she has just moved into a lovely sublet in San Francisco and everything seems perfect until the first night. The title really says it all, poor Caroline, who has misplaced her “o”, the “O” for those of us who require further elaboration, is an involuntary auditory spectator to her neighbours sexual antics adding insult to injury considering her “o-less” state.
When she does finally meet “Wallbanger” it is not love at first sight which is a refreshing change from many of the novels I have read in recent years. Too often the hero and heroine meet and before a full day has passed they are irrevocably in love. Clayton has masterfully created likeable, funny characters, Caroline has a healthy self image there are no painful mental soliloquies bemoaning why Wallbanger could never love her.
Her relationships with her girlfriends are refreshingly irreverent and free of female rivalry even in some situations where a little cattiness wouldn’t be unexpected. She takes the time to build a relationship between the protagonist and the love interest, at no time is the reader wondering what the characters see in one another. After this enjoyable read I will definitely read more by this author.
If I were to try and describe the novel On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves in terms of popular television and movies within the last few decades it would be as the bastard child of Lost and The Blue Lagoon but that description may not do justice to the simple elegance that is this novel. Garvis Graves has managed to deftly depict a story-line which on the surface is somewhat off-putting to the vast majority of the population portraying the inevitable romance between a teenage boy and his much older tutor after they are marooned on an uninhabited island in the Indian Ocean. Visions of Mary Kay Laterno aside, On the Island is a thrilling story of survival that I finished in a single evening.
When the story opens Anna is in a relationship that is going nowhere and has taken a tutoring position in Maldives for the summer. Her prospective student T.J. is to spend the summer catching up on all the school work he missed while in cancer treatment. They miraculously survive the crash of their private plane into the ocean and are washed ashore on one of the many uninhabited islands of the Maldives.
I devoured this book, reading it at every opportunity that being said On the Island isn’t for everyone. The relationship that develops between Anna and T.J. is contentious both within and without the book. The question is what would make a romantic relationship between a woman in her third decade and a much younger man okay? Is the vaguely discomfited feeling that one has following the conclusion of the story simply hypocrisy? Would the reader be more comfortable with a male protagonist and a female fourteen years his junior? Regardless of the questions of morality On the Island is unexpectedly intriguing the reader is compelled to follow the story to its conclusion routing for not only this unlikely couples survival but their happiness together.