WOW — FIRST, BEST & ONLY — JAN. 11

 

Welcome to another edition of Waiting on Wednesday, our wonderful bookish event hosted by Jill, at Breaking the Spine.

To join, just click on the the logo and add your blog direct link to the list.  Celebrate with your own upcoming releases and visit everyone else, too.

Today I’ve decided to talk about Barbara Delinsky’s newest book, due out on 3/1/12:  First, Best & Only.

A passionate tale of love, tragedy and forgiveness by a best-selling author – Marni Lange was just seventeen when she fell passionately in love with the irresistibly sexy Brian Webster. Then a tragic accident tore them apart. Fourteen years later, Marni is now a successful businesswoman, about to appear on the cover of a national magazine – and come face-to-face with the world-famous photographer profiling her . . . Brian Webster. As Marni struggles with her attraction to the man who haunts her past, is she now brave enough to follow her heart and fight for what matters most?

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When the accidental events in our lives separate us from our loved ones, is there hope for a reunion?  Or is it serendipity when the loved ones find each other again?  Whatever is happening, isn’t it great to read such a story?

I hope you’ll stop by and share your own exciting books today.

SAGA OF LOVE, FRIENDSHIP, WAR, & SOCIAL CHANGE — A REVIEW

Sweeping across the decades, from 1941 to 1964, this saga of friendship, family, war, and social issues takes the reader along for the life-changing events that mark this period of time in history.

Told through the voices of three women whose lives were impacted, the reader comes to understand and know Babe, Millie, and Grace, as well as the men they marry. Some chapters revealed the home front with the women working and waiting for letters. Following the returns of some of the soldiers, and the non-returns of others, the visible absence of those who died becomes a monument to the ravages of war. While with others, the impact is visible most in what the war has wrought on the psyche.

Through the march of time, Babe and Millie’s lives change, while Grace seems frozen in time. The friendship between the three women does not lend itself to sharing thoughts and feelings. It is exemplified mostly by the facades that stay seemingly locked in place and the routines that characterize their social activities. Though as time passes and conventions yield to societal changes, a few cracks show up in the armor they wear.

Reading Next to Love: A Novel felt like a panorama of my own life and the experiences I lived, although from a different vantage point. These characters were adults during WWII, while I was an infant.

Near the end, this passage shows a conversation between Babe and her husband Claude, as they look at two of the grown children:

” `Were we ever that young?’ she asks.

” `Before the war.’

“The soreness in his voice takes her back.

After the war, they wrote and promised and prayed.  After the war we’ll do this or that or another thing. After the war we’ll be together. After the war we’ll be happy. After the war we’ll be safe. In all their dreaming of after the war, they never dreamed there is no after to war.”

These passages sum up the general feeling in this moving portrait of a world forever changed by wars. Five stars.

A PIERCING TALE OF LOVE LOST, FOUND, & EMBRACED AGAIN — A REVIEW

When Raymond Gaver’s plane crashes enroute from LA to NY, Charlie Leveque, his attorney, is the one to tell Raymond’s ex-wife Martha. Martha, who remembers hating Charlie for his role in turning her world upside down in the divorce from Raymond.

And now she discovers that he is the executor of the estate and the one to whom she must address financial requests for her son Jack.

Sorting through the detritus of a life abruptly ended brings these characters in close proximity with one another, and then, almost by accident, Charlie and Martha become friends. She begins to understand that he is not to blame for how Raymond tore her life apart, and, in fact, he has gone through his own divorce and is left trying to figure out how to raise his teenage daughter Phoebe. They realize they have more in common than they thought.

As their relationship begins to change and they become close, they discover that, as it turns out, their children are tight friends, who may be more than friends. Instead of making life easier, this complicates things.

The journey of these characters in forging their new lives, separately, and later together, is beautifully wrought, set against the backdrop of Manhattan life with all of its complexities.

Gutcheon has a unique talent for showing us what life looks like in Manhattan in the 1990s, and especially how to navigate life after divorce in these times. She is brilliant at dialogue, showing us the delightfully awkward movements of adults discovering new love, just as she also takes us right into the world of teenagers, with all their funky behaviors and appearances. We begin to see each of the characters; we hear what they hear and chuckle at their flaws, foibles, and missteps. Here is an excerpt that spotlights some of the issues for Martha and Charlie:

“Martha looked doubtful. She was so tired she could hardly remember why it was she couldn’t just fall into his arms and go to sleep. Why couldn’t they just tell the children to behave themselves? Think of the pleasure of cooking breakfast together for all three children, of going to bed together two nights in a row, of going to the supermarket together and deciding together what to cook, of taking a walk together without having to arrange baby-sitters or take three subways to get to each other to do it. Think of sitting together in lamplight after dinner, reading and looking forward to going upstairs to bed together, instead of looking forward to going out in the rain, getting in a cab, and going sixty blocks to sleep alone.”

We meet other characters along the way, like Sophie, Charlie’s ex-girlfriend, and her sister Connie, whose marriage is falling apart. These characters intersect with the others, almost randomly, but their appearances somehow shape and redefine the lives of our major players.

But what obstacles will appear to seemingly derail their lives? How do the complexities of sharing their domestic lives somehow prevent or complicate those ordinary moments? And how, finally, will each of them sort it all out so that the domestic pleasures can be accessible to them?

I loved Domestic Pleasures : A Novel and thoroughly enjoyed savoring the lives of such colorful and real characters that made me root for them, and long for their victories, even as they struggled. There were humorous and sad moments, just as there are in real life, in this memorable tale that I highly recommend for anyone who enjoys touching, piercing stories of love lost, found, and embraced once again. Five stars.

AN EVOCATIVE TALE OF AMBITION & BETRAYAL — A REVIEW

They stood poised at the beginning of his promising writing career, forming a circle of friendships that included a group of expatriates living a Bohemian life in Paris; among them were such notables as F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and many others.

Ernest Hemingway had met and married Hadley Richardson in Chicago, a woman a few years his senior. He had already launched his writing life, and to finance his writer’s journey, Hemingway worked as a journalist for a time. His burgeoning writing career seemed to exist hand in glove with a hard-drinking and fast-living café life that did not celebrate traditional notions of family and monogamy. In these years, Hadley struggled with jealousy and self-doubt; ultimately, something major would smash their dreams of a lasting love.

A sometimes volatile relationship can still have, at its basis, a deeply abiding friendship, which overrides any great romance or grand passion, although they apparently had their share of those moments.

McLain has created a fictionalized version of factual events, digging deeper beneath the emotional layers of what other writers have chronicled about this first marriage of Ernest Hemingway. He would go on to marry four times in all, and his tragic demise was like the epilogue to a brilliant but captivating journey.

How Hemingway created his novels was also a fascinating exploration into the writer’s life. During his first marriage, he created and published The Sun Also Rises.

Throughout The Paris Wife: A Novel, I found myself wishing that events might turn out differently, that there might be a happy ending after all. What I found most satisfying throughout this story, however, were the playful and loving connections created at a tumultuous phase in the lives of these two, and how these connections would sustain them through some difficult times: bonds that would link them even after the marriage had ended. In a letter to Hadley, Ernest wrote of his admiration for her, and how she was the “best and truest and loveliest person I have ever known.”

Themes of loss, childhood trauma, and poor parental connections formed the foundation for what would unfold for these two, and for Hemingway himself in the years that followed. I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about this fascinating writer in the early years, with his “first love.” Five stars.

A LITTLE ROMANCE….

In this excerpt from “An Accidental Life,” Karin enjoys the romantic moments between her and her new boyfriend.

Hours later, they sat satiated while the waiter cleared the table.  They had made short shrift of the platters of food, finished two bottles of wine, and they were now contemplating whether or not they could stand up and leave this place.  “Ooh….” Karin moaned.  “I can’t believe I ate all of that!  But it was so scrumptious!”  She flashed him her dimpled smile.

Scott leaned in toward her, his voice low and seductive.  “I think a little dancing is in order, don’t you?  We can call it exercise, if you will,” he added, grinning like a mischievous boy about to reach inside the cookie jar.

Karin allowed herself to be swept onto the dance floor and the music surrounded them.  The band played those ballads, those country tunes, teasingly, just to lead the unwitting victims into acts of indulgence.  That music was just that…music.  It wasn’t something prophetic.  The songs weren’t being sung just for her and Scott, even though it felt like it.  And there they were again, playing that song: May I have this dance for the rest of  my life

Enfolded in his warmth, as their bodies curved together like one, she felt the pulsating of her heart, while her throat seemingly closed up.  Scott’s achingly soft voice in her ear reminded her that they were two people, even though they seemed melded together.  At first she thought the dance would go on forever…And then she was afraid it would end.