by Barbara Chepaitis
hardcover from Pocket Books 2002
Barbara writes both "mundane" fiction and science fiction. Her first three novels were SF, and I would say that's how I discovered her... but I'd be lying. Barbara is a Capital District local area author, and I had already met her several times long before her first book was published. I picked up her first novel in part because I knew her. I passed it along, recommended it to others, and bought the second because I loved it, and the third because I loved both that came before.
That said, when Feeding Christine, her first non-genre novel, was published, I immediately snapped it up. Loved it. Therefore when my husband was at Flights of Fantasy (which carries Barb's stuff, genre or non-genre) in March, and asked if I wanted anything, my answer was simply, "Barb's new book." Of course then it took me months to actually get to READ it.
It was worth the wait.
As I've already blogged, I cried a lot while reading this book. It begins with Cricket, meeting a strange man in the grocery store and being asked the question, "If you were going to live as if you only had one year to live, what would you do?" This starts Cricket thinking, and she is a dreaming, so it starts her dreaming as well.
We follow Cricket into her life... a middle-aged mother of two daughters (Janis in high school and Grace just 13), with a sister (who's husband might be having an affair), and a husband she loves and is comfortable married to. But she is thinking, and starting to re-evaluate that life. She looks around her, at her husband (would he have an affair? who would want him?), at the man she works with over at the bird sanctuary, at her sister's marriage...
And for the first part of the book, it seems as if it will be a midlife crisis novel. A book about Cricket's learning about her life, and what may change and what may not.
And then, abruptly, it changes. There is a shooting at the mall, where Cricket's daughter Janis has gone for the day while Cricket is at the bird sanctuary. She goes home in a panic to find that Janis is safe, but then she learns that Janis took Grace with her... and that Grace is not safe. She lies in the hospital, undergoing surgery for a bullet which struck her.
Everything changes in that moment. Cricket's life spirals seemingly out of control around her, and she struggles to adapt to the changes. This is much more than a midlife crisis. This is a true crisis of life itself. And no one in Cricket's life is immune from the ramifications.
The book is emotionally heavy. And difficult at times. But it is worth it. Barbara's characters are so believable and true, and you *want* to see Cricket heal from her emotional injuries. You want to see her survive to find her life again by the end of the book. And so I kept reading, with the tears pouring down my cheeks, and sometimes with great gulping sobs of feeling Cricket's heartbreak.
And yes, in the end, it was worth it.Posted by Deb Atwood at September 21, 2002 05:13 PM | TrackBack