REVIEW: LIFELINES, BY HEIDI DIEHL

 

It’s 1971 when Louise leaves Oregon for Düsseldorf, a city grappling with its nation’s horrific recent history, to study art. Soon she’s embroiled in a scene dramatically different from the one at home, thanks in large part to Dieter, a mercurial musician. Their romance ignites quickly, but life gets in the way: an unplanned pregnancy, hasty marriage, the tense balance of their creative ambitions, and—finally, fatally—a family secret that shatters Dieter, and drives Louise home.

But in 2008 she’s headed to Dieter’s mother’s funeral. She never returned to Germany, and has since remarried, had another daughter, and built a life in Oregon. As she flies into the heart of her past, she reckons with the choices she made, and the ones she didn’t, just as her family—current and former—must consider how Louise’s life has shaped their own, for better and for worse.

 

 

My Thoughts: Lifelines opens with Louise ready to board a plane for Germany to attend her former mother-in-law’s funeral. Her daughter Elke has begged for her to attend.

In a sweeping style that takes us back and forth in time, we come to know these characters, with all their flaws and foibles. I enjoyed the peek back into the 1970s, with the cultural issues present in Germany heightened by the world known by Louise and Dieter…and then we see what happens when Louise returns to Oregon and meets Richard, who becomes her second husband. There is a push and pull between Louise, Dieter, and Richard as they struggle to set aside their past lives and move on.

In the present, Elke and Margot, children of the primary characters, show us how they try to find their way while attempting to understand what happened between their parents in the past. A saga that spotlights a time and its issues. 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: THE FUTURES, BY ANNA PITONIAK

Julia and Evan fall in love as undergraduates at Yale. For Evan, a scholarship student from a rural Canadian town, Yale is a whole new world, and Julia–blond, beautiful, and rich–fits perfectly into the future he’s envisioned for himself. After graduation, and on the eve of the great financial meltdown of 2008, they move together to New York City, where Evan lands a job at a hedge fund. But Julia, whose privileged upbringing grants her an easy but wholly unsatisfying job with a nonprofit, feels increasingly shut out of Evan’s secretive world.

With the market crashing and banks failing, Evan becomes involved in a high-stakes deal at work–a deal that, despite the assurances of his Machiavellian boss, begins to seem more than slightly suspicious. Meanwhile, Julia reconnects with someone from her past who offers a glimpse of a different kind of life. As the economy craters, and as Evan and Julia spin into their separate orbits, they each find that they are capable of much more–good and bad–than they’d ever imagined.

My Thoughts: As I began reading The Futures, I was drawn in by the NYC setting, the financial crisis that would soon be erupting all around the characters, and that ongoing sense of actually living the story along with them.

Julia and Evan could be any young couple starting out, fresh from university with all their ideals guiding them. Julia came from a privileged life with a well-to-do family in Boston, ready to pick up the pieces for her if she ran into problems. A sense of entitlement certainly contributed to how she handled the events that unfolded over the months following the beginning of their seemingly perfect life.

Evan had a different kind of upbringing. From a small town in British Columbia, he depended upon his employment to maintain his visa, so he was in a more tenuous position. But he, too, had the strong ideals of a new graduate, and he certainly had the naivete of someone from small town life set down in the midst of a sophisticated and high-pressured environment.

It wasn’t surprising that Julia and Evan had a failure to communicate, partially due to their parallel lives. Evan worked until late at night, and Julia, with a shorter work day and time on her hands, fell prey to a burgeoning tendency to feel sorry for herself for not having the attention she thought she deserved.

When secrets and betrayals brought their relationship to a crashing halt, Julia escaped back to Boston, while Evan tried to keep his head down at work, as if hoping that everything would blow over eventually.

Alternately narrated by Julia and Evan, the reader has the opportunity to live inside their individual heads throughout the story, feeling empathy for each of them, while wondering how they would extricate themselves from their bad choices. Definitely engaging, I could not put this book down. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: ALWAYS, BY SARAH JIO

512rqof8q5l

 

 

 

Enjoying a romantic candlelit dinner with her fiancé, Ryan, at one of Seattle’s chicest restaurants, Kailey Crain can’t believe her good fortune: She has a great job as a journalist and is now engaged to a guy who is perfect in nearly every way. As she and Ryan leave the restaurant, Kailey spies a thin, bearded homeless man on the sidewalk. She approaches him to offer up her bag of leftovers, and is stunned when their eyes meet, then stricken to her very core: The man is the love of her life, Cade McAllister.

Flashing back to 1996, and then fast-forwarding to 2008, “Always” is a gripping and emotionally thrilling novel of first love, lost love, and the power of healing.

Set in a Seattle that vibrated with the music scene of the 1990s, Cade McAllister and Kailey Crain were in the heat of new love: they were full of dreams, plans, and the building of connections. They were soul mates.

But then something happened. Something inexplicable. During that summer of 1998, Cade disappeared. For ten years, Kailey would wonder, would grieve, and then finally move on with Ryan Winston.

What did Kailey discover during the winter of 2008, after finding Cade on that sidewalk? How does she finally uncover the events of that final summer together in 1998? Who was responsible for Cade’s injuries? Will she be able to put the pieces together in such a way that Cade can be restored to her and to his life?

I could not stop reading this story, feeling the strength of that first love, despite the obstacles and the loss, and rooting for Kailey and Cade…while still feeling a bit sad for Ryan. Yes, I could predict a lot of what would ultimately happen, but that did not make it a “predictable” read for me, as there were numerous questions along the way. Mysteries to solve. So this book was another winning tale by this author. 5 stars.

cropped-again-5***
My e-ARC came to me from the publisher via NetGalley.