Synopsis (from back cover): At age seventy-five, Sarah Lucas imagined the rest of her days would be spent living peacefully in her rural Vermont home in the familiar, steadfast company of her husband. But when Charles succumbs to an injury he suffered in the woods, she is left suddenly and inconsolably alone.
First line: “Running on fear alone, Sarah Lucas follows her dog Sylvie down a long meadow and onto a disintegrating ski trail in the woods.”
Review: I decided to read these two novels after I posted my Genre Award Winners: Women’s Fiction post. I had really enjoyed the titles I had read on the list, so I couldn’t resist. Well, I’m so glad I checked Cuckoo out (which did NOT have a waiting list at my library?), but couldn’t finish Pleasures… Let’s start with what I just loved…
It has been a while since I have read a book that I devoured so quickly, loved so immediately, and missed so much once finished. I read it on my flight home from Colorado and then somehow managed to finish it the next day. (Isn’t it strange how some books we miraculously find time to read — despite how busy we may be — while others languish for weeks!?)
So, why did I love Cuckoo so much? The characters are just wonderful. After the first few pages I felt as if I had known Sarah and Charles, and their children, for years. If you read the premise above (I had not), then you know how sad parts are bound to be. Quite honestly, I had tears in my eyes during many sections, but good tears.
Sarah is a remarkable character who embraces the reader just as firmly and warmly as she embraces the motley crew of characters who eventually populate her world, each of whom are more fascinating than the next. One risk in a populated novel is that the protagonist will get lost — or the reader will not feel connected to the characters. Neither of these fears were realized. Maloy devoted just the right amount of time to each character and Sarah remained central throughout.
The other great gift of this novel is the setting. Rural Vermont has never been more vividly realized:
“Early in April the warm breath of spring released ice and snow in torrents from their frozen imprisonment. Rivers and streams ran fast and muddy, breaching their banks in low places but othewise furiously contained. Like the rivers, Sarah’s grief ran fast and readily spilled over in low, private moments…
As the spring rains came down, the dirt roads braided themselves with glistening, axle-deep ruts full of sucking mud. Sarah began walking in the early mornings to stir herself out of her torpor…”
Now this novel is actually not overly descriptive, but as seen in the above passages, Maloy connects the natural world to the interior state of Sarah in a dept and perceptive way. I loved spending a few hours “in Vermont” and in the company of Sarah…
Two thumbs up! (5 Bookmarks ) Now, on to what I did not enjoy…
The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg
Release date/ Length: 2009 / 7 CDs (8 hours)
Synopsis: Betta Nolan moves to a small town after the death of her husband to try to begin life anew. Though still dealing with her sorrow, Betta nonetheless is determined to find pleasure in her simple daily routines. Among those who help her in both expected and unexpected ways are the ten-year-old boy next door, three wild women friends from her college days with whom she reconnects, a young man who is struggling to find his place in the world, and a handsome widower who is ready for love.
Review: I started this one immediately after Cuckoo, but just could not get into it. Now, it was on the “read alike” list so I should have guessed that it would be about a woman losing her spouse… but I didn’t. So, the similar subject matter was a bit of a downer, quite honestly.
Bette, the main character, and her husband had lived a very insulated life — meeting all their needs with one another, keeping other relationships at arm’s length. So I found it interesting that I, too, felt distant from Bette, even though I was actually in her head. I also felt left out of her relationship with her husband, in a way I never felt with Sarah and Charles.
After 2 discs of feeling distant and left out, I decided to walk away. The other characters just weren’t that interesting to me (except the 10 year old neighbor — loved him!), and the protagonist wasn’t interesting enough for me to keep trying.
Now I do not feel right rating a book I didn’t finish… Anyone else read this? And would you feel comforable providing a rating?