Just One Life

Just One Life

Just One Life by Pat Abercromby

This was a difficult book to read, not because of the writing, but because of the subject matter. We follow Fran through roughly sixty years of her life, over half of it married to a man she never truly loves, a man for whom she settles because of his physical appeal but who lacks a sense of humor as well as a moral compass, is a poor communicator, and never provides the quality of companionship she craves. We watch her give up more than one satisfying career to live in places she doesn’t enjoy in order to accommodate her husband’s career, and we learn about the men she sleeps with and the ones she loves but cannot have. We know early on that she will become her husband’s reluctant caregiver after he has a debilitating stroke, and we experience her resentment about giving up all personal ambitions to take care of him in her old age. In short, we’re reading about the life of a woman who comes to regret how it all plays out. It’s not a very jolly topic.

We also follow, on the periphery, the story of her lifelong friend, Iona, who has issues of her own with the men in her life. We see Fran’s and Iona’s daughters grow up, and we learn about the difficulties and joys they bring and how the two women’s lives continue to intertwine. Because of the timespan to be covered, multiple years often pass in a single sentence, which can leave the reader feeling left in the dust. We know Fran well in some ways, but mostly we’re just voyeurs peeking through her windows, watching someone whose days and life are whizzing by without much detail, and we don’t feel particularly involved.

Without involvement, there’s little investment. Add to that the lack of any type of story arc, mystery, or real tension, and you have what is basically a human interest story. Upon reading the author’s guest post, I am guessing that this book is more autobiographical than not (emphasis on “guessing”), which would explain a lack of riveting plot points.

The writing is fine. The story has its interesting aspects. Would I have finished the book if I hadn’t promised to participate in this blog tour? I’m not sure.

Grandma gives Just One Life three stars. 3 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews Books received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review and participation in the blog tour.

For our Guest Post from author Pat Abercromby, go here.

Evelyn, After

evelyn-after

Evelyn, After by Victoria Helen Stone (Women’s Contemporary Fiction)

As one of its Kindle First choices for the month of October, Amazon describes this book as psychological suspense involving a scorned wife’s obsession with the other woman, but I disagree. Although the initial chapters provide a promising introduction to the possibilities of how Evelyn, the wife, might seek revenge on her husband and his lover, Juliette, the book is not a thriller. Presented with a complex dilemma involving right and wrong, Evelyn’s primary concern is how the community will view her and her family if the truth comes out. While that might trigger evil, vengeful behavior in a more mean-spirited woman, Evelyn has become complacent over the years. She chooses, instead, to spy on Juliette and falls for Juliette’s husband. At that point things just get messy rather than suspenseful.

Victoria Helen Stone is the pen-name of Victoria Dahl, a popular romance writer, and this is her first book outside the romance genre. Elements of romance and explicit sex scenes exist in this book, but she also does a good job of capturing the fears, confusion, pain, and disillusionment experienced by a woman who is the victim of an unfaithful husband. Evelyn’s self-esteem is non-existent, and she’s extremely vulnerable. Her obsession with Juliette is believable; she needs to know what about this woman could make her psychiatrist husband risk his career, their marriage, their home, and the welfare of their teen-aged son.

The book is written in the third person from Evelyn’s point of view, and the chapters alternate between “Before” and “After” the pivotal event of meeting Juliette’s husband. The backstory told in “Before” chapters slowly illuminates how and why she goes to his art gallery, while the “After” chapters show the consequences of that fateful visit. Unfortunately, the final chapter, called “Now,” is an info-dump that quickly summarizes everything that happens in the weeks after the close of the previous chapter, as though the author just tired of the whole thing, and rather than continue telling the story, she wrapped it up with a “Where is Evelyn Now and How Did She Get There?” conclusion.

Grandma gives Evelyn, After four stars. 4 stars