Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Don't Waste Your Time on Goudge's Cliches and Melodrama

Just when I thought I may not have time to finish the Fall Into Reading challenge, I got a surprise - my husband bought me a plane ticket to visit my parents in Washington State. This was a wonderful gift in and of itself, but the fringe benefit was all that reading time. I spent about 6 hours on a plane and 2 hours in the airport. The result? Two books read. Woo hoo.


I boarded the plane with Woman in Red by Eileen Goudge in hand. I loved the cover art on this one and the story's premise sounded intriguing, so I delved into the book. After a few chapters, I wanted to climb right back out. Since my other book was stowed somewhere under the plane, it was Woman in Red or Southwest's in-flight magazine. I stuck with Goudge.

At the book's center is Alice Kessler, a woman who is fresh out of prison and looking for a new start. After doing nine years for the attempted murder of the man who killed her eldest son, Alice only wants three things: a home, a job and a chance to reconnect with her surviving son, Jeremy. That is, of course, easier said than done. When Alice returns to her home on an island in Washington, she crashes into roadblock after roadblack. No one wants to rent to an ex-con, let alone hire one, and Jeremy refuses to forgive her for abandoning him. Even her normally laidback brother-in-law, a sheriff's deputy, is acting strangely toward her. To top it all off, the man Alice tried to run down is now the mayor of the city. She suspects his influence has closed every door in the town. Alice's only allies seem to be her faithful sister and a stranger she met at the ferry dock.

The stranger is Colin McGinty, a New York City lawyer haunted by the death of his wife on 9/11. After drowning his grief in booze, he has ruined his career and lost all his friends. He is retreating to the cabin he inherited from his grandfather, hoping to find a little peace. What he finds is Alice Kessler, someone wrapped as tightly in sorrow as he is. Colin is drawn to her not only because of her obvious vulnerability, but also because she looks startingly familiar. It is only when Colin is alone in his grandfather's cabin, staring at a portrait the old man painted, that he realizes Alice bears a striking resemblance to the mystery woman in the picture.

While unraveling the mystery of the painting, Alice and Colin form a friendship that has the potential to go much deeper. Before the relationship has the chance to blossom, however, Alice gets another blow - Jeremy is being accused of rape. She knows only too well who's behind the trumped-up charges. Together, the two work to help Jeremy, while still probing the past for clues about old McGinty's painting. The two are, of course, connected, and Alice is determined to find out how. The question is, can she do it in time to save her son? Or is she doomed to face him only through prison bars?

As I said before, the plot really caught my attention. Unfortunately, its execution had me gritting my teeth in annoyance. For one thing, Goudge tried to pack so many issues into the story that it became both meandering and melodramatic. Too many crises occurred for the story to be believable. Don't even get me started on the scene between the mayor and Alice's brother-in-law - it's ridiculous to say the least. I could have forgiven the weak plot if Goudge had at least created some interesting characters. Nope. Didn't happen. Each one was as flat as a paper doll. Some of them were so cliche (Calpernia, for example) that I actually laughed out loud. Another thing that bugged the heck out of me was the sloppiness of the text, both in editing and in sentence structure. I got especially sick of redundant sentences like, "'Alice,' she said, not giving her last name" (16). Ugh. I hate it when an author thinks she has to do all the thinking for you.

This book annoyed me so much that I would have abandoned it after the Prologue (which was riveting, by the way), but I wanted to finish it for the Fall Into Reading challenge. So, I did, but if I were you, I wouldn't waste my time.

Grade: D

2 comments:

  1. This book was on my Fall Into Reading list as well and I agree with you..it was not that great. I am a fan of Eileen, but this one was yuck.

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