July 03, 2004
A Gracious Plenty by Sheri Reynolds

A Gracious Plenty by Sheri Reynolds: a novel that examines the relationships between people, both those that are living and those that are dead.

Finch Noble is a cemetary caretaker that has no real friends except for the dead. Burned and left disfigured in a horrible accident as a child, Finch has been shunned by most of the town and is content to care for the cemetary and talk to the dead, her parents among them. All this begins to change, however, when she follows the request of her best friend, Lucy, a stripper who committed suicide.

Lucy’s mother cannot believe that her beautiful daughter, once a beauty queen and pageant winner, would ever kill herself and refuses to believe Finch when she tells her that her daughter wasn’t murdered. Filing harassment charges against Finch leads her to becoming close to Leonard, a policeman who’s been nothing but a failure to his father. As the two worlds interact with each other through Finch, the tension builds and results in a climax that reveals hidden secrets.

In a way, this novel was more about the people and how they deal with both their lives and deaths more than moving towards a plot resolution, though one was given. I enjoyed getting to know Finch, Lucy, and Leonard and enjoyed Reynold’s style. An enjoyable, quick read.

June 29, 2004
The Dive From Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer

The Dive From Clausen’s Pier by Ann Packer: this mesmerizing debut novel asks the, “How much do we owe the people that we love?”

Carrie is twenty-three, fresh out of college, and falling out of love with her boyfriend of over eight years, Michael Mayer. At a Memorial Day picnic, tragedy ensues when Mike tries to impress Carrie by diving off of Clausen’s Pier and ends up a quadriplegic. Carrie is suddenly confronted with terrible responsibilites that she doesn’t know if she’s up to - being there for Mike, his family, and their friends while continuing to give Mike her love and support.

Ultimately, this event makes her life become a battle between what she feels she owes Mike and what she owes herself - should she stay and become the devoted, loving wife that everyone wants her to become or should she just leave and try to find out what she really wants to do with her life?

I found the suspense in Carrie’s choices - will she stay with Mike or will she strike out on her own? - so dramatic and so very real that I couldn’t wait to see what choice she would make and then to find out how she would be able to make peace within herself with that choice. The novel was well written and the characters very complex. You could sympathize with Carrie for wanting more out of life but also want her to stay with Mike since he loves her so. All in all, it was a great read and I look forward to reading more books from this author.