Getting through the valleys + “Every Last Lie” by Mary Kubica

Marriage is not all wine and roses. Well — maybe the wine. But it’s not all roses.

If you’re married, you know this. Heck, if you’re in a relationship at all, you can make that deduction. Because relationships are hard work.

(FYI, this is not an essay bashing marriage or husbands or my husband or relationships in general. If  I scared you, continue on. It’s safe.)

For this post, I’m going to talk about marriage. It’s the relationship I know the best at this point in my life. But my deep and meaningful (I say this tongue-in-cheek, because these are just and only my deep thoughts) insights can describe any relationship of duration, from romantic relationships to friendships and even family relationships.

Marriage starts off as magic. From the moment two people meet, there’s a magic that comes with that new connection. You meet, you spark, you fall in love. You get married, and that marriage starts off on a high (or it should–mine did). For the first while, it’s all magic.

And then that magic – that connection – ebbs a bit, and then flows again. It’s starts off up high. On top of a mountain. The very peak of that mountain. But the air gets thin up there, and you have to come down. Sometimes it’s a slow descent, sometimes you’re on the world’s fastest pair of skis.

That’s when you hit the valley floor. Those valleys can be long and flat, much like the day-to-day of life and marriage. Or they can be small; a little valley — a big fight, after which you start the ascent to the top of the good relationship mountain (boy, isn’t that a trite little metaphor).

Or it could be just a valley, not long or short, but filled with lies and untold truths, spread throughout that valley like hidden gopher holes and dangerous old wells. That’s the time when marriage becomes an obstacle course, with traps to avoid and overcome.

I believe the valleys happen no matter what you do. I don’t know a marriage that doesn’t have ups and downs. Everything in life is ups and down, a scale trying to find the balance, achieving it in rare moments that are remembered and cherished. Those are the moments that make a marriage special.

It’s how you handle the valleys that makes your relationship. If you can weather the down times, you start back up that next mountain a little stronger, getting to the next peak together, ready to celebrate and enjoy it (at least until you get to the next valley).

And, without the valleys, we would not be able to appreciate the mountain highs quite as much.

But what would happen if your spouse died while you’re in the relationship valley? What if you didn’t realize you were caught in such a dangerous valley – because your spouse kept covering up the lies and untruths? What if he died, and you were suddenly left with those hidden gopher holes and old wells, the ones he covered up and hid?

That’s the premise of Mary Kubica’s Every Last Lie.

Clara Solberg is a happy wife. Married to a wonderful man that dotes on her, with a precocious young daughter and a newborn son. Her husband, Nick, has a dental practice that’s taking off, and her life seems good (although she could use a good night’s sleep).

On an afternoon when her new baby, Felix, is actually sleeping, Nick offers to take their daughter, Maisie, to her dance class. After class, he calls and offers to pick up Chinese food, making her feel like the luckiest woman in the world (it’s amazing how standards fall when you’re sleep deprived with a new born).

But, when the police arrive at her house rather than Nick with the food, she knows something is really wrong. Uncomprehendingly, she listens as they tell her Nick was killed in a single car crash. Surprisingly, Maisie has no injuries.

And so begins Clara’s long, dark trip. Sleep deprived and mourning, sleep becomes more elusive. When Maisie mentions a bad man, Clara decides the accident wasn’t an accident, and she needs to figure out who killed her husband.

Along the way she starts to discover all the things Nick was keeping from her. Those little lies and untruths start to pop up, causing her head to spin with dark thoughts. Wading through the sleep deprivation, the sadness, and the mystery — not to mention her mother’s Alzheimer’s and her father’s caretaking — Clara is determined to discover the truth about her husband and his death.

I really enjoyed Every Last Lie. I could feel Clara’s pain, understand her loss and descent into a kind of madness. In any other mystery, the amount of suspects and problems would overwhelm me as a reader, but it worked her. Clara’s feeling overwhelmed, making up scenarios and suspects at every turn. The fact that many of these people aren’t exactly good people helps her make them into killers, at least in her mind.

When the truth does emerge, it’s beyond her wildest (and they do get wild) imaginings.

Kubica does a fantastic job with Every Last Lie, continuing with her string of great mysteries. I think this was my favorite of her books, if only because I could imagine being Clara at one point in my life.

I highly recommend Every Last Lie. It’s the perfect vacation/beach/lakehouse/rainy day read. Incredibly unputdownable!!!

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Home + CRM Review of Emma Donoghue’s “The Wonder”

As a child, home was home. Where ever mom and dad were–that was home. For me, it was where I was safe and loved. Where my room was, where I snuggled into read a book and fought with my brother. It was familiar and warm and, well, just home.

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We moved a few times when I was a child — just regular moving. But that feeling was always there.

Two of the most memorable homes were in the country. A few acres and neighbors who were close enough, but not too close.

And then the teen years. The acres felt too big, the town too small. I wanted more (and partly because of me, but mostly because it made logistical sense with my parent’s business and where most of our activities were happening) we moved to the city (I won’t say big city, but it was a city, and it’s getting bigger all the time).

And, after graduating from there, I couldn’t wait to strike out on my own and get out of that city.

After many moves and many towns, I got married. And we began building out own home, a safe place for our girls.

It’s funny to think that as much as I wanted to get away from ‘home’ and the home town, I ended up in a place very similar. Maybe because it’s where I felt safe and loved. Where, for better or worse, they knew me best.

I think we’re giving our 200.gifgirls the same kind of smallish town, hometown feel that we grew up with (my husband grew up on a horse farm in New Jersey). I hope were giving them that same sense of security and love. Enough to make them want to leave the nest, but to know it’s here, filled with laughter and hugs.

Enough so they know that there is a place called home, and that they are always welcome (at least for the weekend).

Now, onto my review of The Wonder by Emma Donoghue.


 

Lib had a dizzying sense that time could fall into itself like the embers. That in these dim hints nothing had changed since the age of the Druids and nothing ever would. What was that line in the hymn they’d sung at Lib’s school? The night is dark, and I am far from home.

Emma Donoghue, The Wonder

 

The Premise

Deep in the heart of Ireland in the mid 1800’s lives a marvel of God’s love, or so we are to believe. Anna O’Donnell, eleven years-old, has lived off manna from heaven, eating nothing for months, drawing tourists and journalists to her family’s small cabin.

In order to substantiate the claims, a committee of village citizens has hired professionals to keep watch on the girl for two weeks. They call in a nun and Lib Wright, on of Florence Nightingale’s original nurses from the Crimean War (known as Nightingales).

Lib is suspicious of the claims, an agnostic (or maybe atheist) and non-Catholic. She’s scientific in her approach to the girl, checking every corner of the room in search for hidden food, taking notes on the girl’s condition day in and day out. Sitting with her for hours at a time, Lib is unable to avoid conversations with Anna. She discovers a quick mind and a clever, sweet girl.

Finding herself up against superstitious and devoutly Catholic villagers, Lib also must fight the blinders put up by the committee and Anna’s own family. All need it to be a miracle, bringing in tourists to their small village. But beyond that, they are devout Catholics, interested in sainthood for Anna. Nearly everyone involved is unwilling to see Anna as she is: swollen with dropsy, jaundiced, and dying as her body starves.

The town doctor believes she may be a medical miracle as well, thinking that she may be turning into a sort of plant, capable of living on air alone. The committee wants her to be a miracle, a martyr, a saint, in order to save their town. (Interestingly, the only two that seem to show real doubts about this course is the town priest and the nun.)

Lib is sure Anna is a hoax, and that her family is keeping the collections left by tourists. She watches Anna with detachment, unable to understand the child’s utter devotion to her Church. But when Anna’s health starts to fail, and no one will lift a hand to help, Lib starts to realize that she has to do something.

But will it be enough, and will it be in time?


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My Thoughts

I read a lot of books. And I get caught up in a large number of them. I fall for the characters, and then the stories. That’s the kind of reader I am.

And then I read a book with stark, beautiful prose. And I remember how much I love words. I remember that the best writers can tell a story with solid prose, rather than the flowery verbiage in many novels of late. I remember the words are the thing. With that kind of real, rugged prose, an author can do a better job of highlighting the characters and the story, taking the spotlight off the author’s ability to sprinkle a novel with their big, long descriptors.

Not that The Wonder is short on description. But it’s used to tell the story, not to draw attention to itself.

The story  itself is completely gothic, using the committee and the town, their religion and superstitions, as the most horrific monsters of all. We watch as a group of zealots allow a young girl to waste away, and she continues to let it happen, because she’s a child and these people are supposed to love and protect her.

I could have done without the nod to romance for the cold-hearted Lib, although it did give us a chance to understand why she is so cold-hearted. And it does work — as she thaws concerning Anna, so she is drawn to the handsome journalist.

The other sticking point for me is Donoghue use of a convenient device for Anna’s fervor, making it just a little too pat and obvious. I really wish she would have stuck to the religious for Anna, making it a reaction to the very recent potato famine (which had ended just seven years earlier), the death of her brother from unknown maladies, and her love for God.

But, as I said, the prose is perfect and beautiful, highlighting the strong story and characters rather than hiding the flaws behind ornate wordage. The Wonder is historical fiction, psychological thriller, and gothic novel all rolled into one well-written bag of goodness.

4.5 stars.

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