Friday, June 6, 2008

Review: The Space Between Before and After

Summary: Forty-two and divorced, Holli Templeton has just begun to realize the pleasures of owning her life for the first time. But the experience is short-lived. Her son Conner has unexpectedly fled college in Rhode Island and moved to Texas with his troubled girlfriend, Kilian. This alone is difficult to handle, but as Holli begins to understand the depth of the girl's problems, concern turns to crisis.

Conner's situation is worsening, and as if that's not enough, Holli notices signs of serious decline in the beloved Texas grandmother who raised her. She has no choice but to leave the comfort zone of life in New York and return to her hometown in Texas to care for the people she loves.

In the tight space between these two generations, Holli initially feels lost. The journey back stirs so many unresolved hurts from her childhood. But something else happens in this uneasy homecoming. Comfort arrives in the ethereal presence of the mother long lost to her, and Holli is surprised to find that as she struggles to help her son and grandmother, the wounds of her own past begin to heal.

The space between before and after—easily the most challenging place she has ever known—begins to reveal an unanticipated hope for what the future might hold. -- Avon

A few weeks ago, I received a big treat from Lauren at Harper Collins -- a big box filled with ten copies of THE LOST MEMOIRS OF JANE AUSTEN that I won from ReadingGroupGuides.com last November. Because these books kind of got lost in the shuffle, Lauren graciously sent me another box filled with five brand-spanking new ARCs! They all look terrific and I can't wait to read every one of them, but the first book that I picked up was THE SPACE BETWEEN BEFORE AND AFTER by Jean Reynolds Page.

I wasn't sure that I was going to appreciate a book that ties trajedies in space with tragic events in a woman's life (I thought it might be a little out there), but I have to say that I enjoyed it very much. I found many of the messages of this book to be extremely upbeat. I liked how the author conveyed that life isn't always what it seems to be, especially when seen through the eyes of a child. I found it very hopeful that the characters were willing to change and even forgive those who had hurt them. The ultimate message that with forgiveness comes a personal healing is one that I can never be reminded of enough. In addition, I really enjoyed the spiritual aspects of this book -- they were enlightening without being preachy.

My only issue with this book, and it's a very small one is that the book seemed to be a little long -- it was almost 400 pages. I can only speak for my book club when I say this, but we tend to shy away from book over 350 pages because some of the women have problems finding time to read longer books. I didn't find myself getting bored with the book and hoping to reach the end, but it did take me a little while to really get into the story. However, once I became involved in the story, I was hooked.

I found Ms. Reynolds Page's writing style very easy to follow. The book was divided into chapters which were from the point of view of two (really three) different characters -- Hollyanne, Holli and Connor -- the Hollyanne chapters are flashbacks of Holli's youth. I thought the author did a good job of developing the various characters and finding each of their voices. While all of the characters in the story were somewhat flawed, Ms. Reynolds Page was able to create compassion and understanding for each of them.

One other thing I found interesting was in the A+ Author Insights, Extras, & More... section in the back of the book. Ms. Reynolds Page actually created a soundtrack for the book -- movies have them, why not books! She gave a list of songs that matched certain characters as well as songs that fit some of the relationships between characters. In addtion, there were three scenes that were deleted from the final copy of the book because they didn't quite fit. Reading these scenes actually enhanced my reading experience, and I felt I had a little more insight into the characters.

I do think that THE SPACE BETWEEN BEFORE AND AFTER will make a wonderful book club selection. I couldn't find a reading guide yet, but I am sure that one will be available in the very near future. There are so many great topics for discussion that touch each of our lives including loss, illness, spirituality, family dynamics, and forgiveness that you probably could come up with questions on your own. It really is the perfect book for a group of women to discuss.

3 comments:

Cheryl said...

Sounds like a good book. Nice review

Heather Johnson said...

I'm still not sure that this is my kind of book, but I love that it has all that extra info in the back! The idea of a soundtrack is wonderful - don't know why someone didn't think of it before now. And the deleted scenes - cool!

Michele said...

Ooh, another good one. Thanks for the review!