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Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Olive Street Ain't Got Nothin' On Virgin River

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When the world beats you up and you just need to breathe, where do you go? Do you make a mad dash for the beach? To a cabin in the woods? To the home where you grew up? When you need comfort, solace or just some space, to where do you flee? For four friends - Elly, Sable, Barbara Ann, and Beth - a refuge can always be found at Gabby's home on Olive Street. It's not the most luxurious house, or the most modern, or the most beautifully furnished, but it's the kind of place where one will always feel welcomed, comfortable and relaxed. Gabby's kind, gracious hospitality makes her home the perfect place for the women to gather, especially when life's throwing them curveball after curveball.

All the women are shocked when they arrive at the house on Olive Street one day to find Gabby dead. Although it was writing that brought them together in the first place, Gabby's always been the glue that kept the group close. Without her, what will become of them? How will they face all the pressures in their lives without the loving support of their friend? Her death couldn't have come at a worse time for the four women, each of whom is grappling with her own set of problems. Elly's a cranky old spinster who's too cynical to admit she needs anyone ... until an unassuming farmer makes his way into her life. Sable, a famous novelist, has it all - a sparkling mansion, a designer wardrobe, A-list acquaintances - everything but genuine relationships. She's spent so much energy trying to bury an unsavory past that she's pushed away everyone who has ever tried to get close to her. Now, when the press is hounding her with uncomfortable questions, she doesn't know who to trust. Barbara Ann's exhausted. Between churning out three novels a year and cleaning up after her slovenly husband and boys, she's feeling bitter and resentful. She loves her family, but can't take it anymore. Can she risk losing it all to save her own sanity? Shy Beth hides the darkest secret of all. Her pilot husband controls her every move, even while he flits around with any flight attendant in sight. If she dares to question his actions, he answers her with his fists. Will she ever gather enough strength to fight back?

One by one, the friends drift back to Olive Street, where they've always found refuge. As the four work together to organize Gabby's papers, they reminisce about the woman who meant so much in all of their lives. Slowly, they help each other find the healing, support and friendship they all need to go on.

Originally published in 1998, Robyn Carr's The House on Olive Street was recently reissued with beautifully-updated cover art. Although the novel has a little of the Grace Valley/Virgin River warmth that the author's so well-known for, it's an altogether different kind of book. More women's fiction than romance, the story deals with familiar Carr themes - friendship, family, grief, healing - just with a much more feminist bent. The plot's pretty skimpy, which made the read a bit laborious for me. Also, while all the characters are sympathetic, I didn't feel particulary drawn to any of them. All in all, the book was okay, but definitely not my favorite Carr novel. What I did find interesting was the insider's look at what it means to be a professional writer. Robyn Carr definitely knows her stuff, which makes all the details as convincing as they are fascinating. More than anything else, this sympathetic glimpse into the writing life is what kept me reading The House On Olive Street.

If you like this type of slower-paced women's novel, you'll definitely want to check this one out. For me, I'm going to stick with Jack and the gang over in Virgin River. Moonlight Road, here I come.

(Readalikes: Hmm ... I can't think of any. Can you?)

Grade: B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated: R for language, mature themes and sexual content

To the FTC, with love: I received a copy of this novel from the very generous Robyn Carr. Thanks!

1 comment:

  1. There's an award for you at


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