Saturday, November 29, 2008

Review: Shelter Me

Summary: In the tradition of Marisa de los Santos and Anne Tyler comes a moving debut about a young mother's year of heartbreak, loss, and forgiveness...and help that arrives from unexpected sources.

Four months after her husband's death, Janie LaMarche remains undone by grief and anger. Her mourning is disrupted, however, by the unexpected arrival of a builder with a contract to add a porch onto her house. Stunned, Janie realizes the porch was meant to be a surprise from her husband—now his last gift to her.

As she reluctantly allows construction to begin, Janie clings to the familiar outposts of her sorrow—mothering her two small children with fierce protectiveness, avoiding friends and family, and stewing in a rage she can't release. Yet Janie's self-imposed isolation is breached by a cast of unlikely interventionists: her chattering, ipecac-toting aunt; her bossy, over-manicured neighbor; her muffin-bearing cousin; and even Tug, the contractor with a private grief all his own.

As the porch takes shape, Janie discovers that the unknowable terrain of the future is best navigated with the help of others—even those we least expect to call on, much less learn to love. -- Avon

When I was selected to read an ARC of SHELTER ME by Juliette Fay as part of the Harper Collins First Look Program, I was extremely excited. Based on the novel's description, I just knew it would be a book that I would eventually have to read. Fortunately for me, I got a head-start on the book a few months before it will be released. When I opened up the package and took a look at this book, I noticed how beautiful the cover was (especially the patchwork quilt covering the mother and child.) I can definitely say that after reading the novel, I appreciated the cover art even more -- it was just perfect for this story!

I absolutely adored this novel -- from the characters, to the story, to the author's writing style! This is just one of those novels that I got caught up in and couldn't put down. SHELTER ME definitely made me think, and it really stirred up a lot of emotions in me. I am about the same age of Janie and I'm also the mother of a son and daughter. I don't like to think about what would happen to my family if I suddenly lost my husband, but I have to admit that it sometimes enters my mind. Reading about Janie and her children really hit close to home for me. I could definitely understand Janie's grieving for the loss of her husband; however, I could also really relate to outward emotions of anger, frustration and resentment.

There were parts of this novel that were so touching and beautifully written that I found myself getting choked up. Like Janie, I have a four year old son who is very insightful. I felt like some of the things Dylan said about his father were "spot on," albeit very emotional. The scene at Dylan's party just broke my heart especially when they were taking family pictures without the father. I can't imagine how difficult it would be to have holidays and other special family events with such an important person missing.

This is Juliette Fay's first novel, and I'm just blown away by her talent. I love how she told this story in third person narrative because I thought it gave insight into all the characters, but I also appreciated how she used Janie's journal writings to give the reader a closer look at her feelings. I am just so impressed how Ms. Fay managed to capture the essence of Janie's grief -- it was incredibly real to me. In addition, I love how she showed Janie's difficulties with guilt as she tried to "move on" with her life. I hope Ms. Fay is busy working on her next novel because I can't wait to read it.

As I mentioned earlier, I thought the cover of this novel was just wonderful; however, I think the title SHELTER ME is even more perfect. Ms. Fay incorporated the theme of "shelter" so well throughout this novel. I could go on forever about how she showed the importance of shelter in our lives through family, parents, spouses, church, homeless shelters, etc. She even chose to have Janie's husband die because he wasn't wearing his bike helmet (another form of shelter.) In addition, she used this recurring theme by having Tug "shelter" Janie by both physically -- by building a porch on her house, as well as figuratively -- by being there to protect and love her. I just love how Ms. Fay wove the theme of shelter and protection throughout the pages of this beautiful novel.

SHELTER ME is published by Avon, an imprint of Harper Collins; and the paperback book has the A+ Author Insights, Extras and More Section in the back. Many of you know from my other reviews that I love these extras, and I think they add so much to my reading experience. There is an interesting interview with Ms. Fay which gives the reader a great deal of insight into the novel and the characters. In addition to the discussion questions, there are also a few recipes of some foods mentioned in the story and a cute little story titled "SHELTER ME Goes Out the Window."

SHELTER ME will be available on December 30th, and I think it is the perfect book club discussion book. It is a little longer than what my book club usually reads (over 400 pages), but it is so worth it. This book will resonate with many women, and I have no doubt that my friends will relate to Janie's grief and her feelings. Ever since I finished this book, I have been dying to talk about it. There are so many wonderful issues to discuss such as single parenting, grieving, starting over, mother-daughter relationships, spirituality, and hope (to name a few.) The discussion questions are terrific and sure to give you lots to think about.

Also reviewed at:
Sincerely Stacie

8 comments:

Wrighty - said...

I can't wait to read this book!! The cover immediately caught my attention and then when you mentioned Marisa de los Santos, I was hooked already. You also wrote a great review. I do love this kind of book even though it can make me think too much, especially as a parent. I notice the parallels as you did with your kids. I really look forward to this one. Thanks for introducing me to it!

5wrights1@verizon.net

bermudaonion said...

That sounds so good. I was hooked when the writing was compared to Anne Tyler.

dawn said...

Julie - thanks for this well-written review. I enjoyed your analysis, and how you tied the title and cover art in. I'll look for this book after the new year.

Dar said...

Julie, great review. This sounds like a great book-another one for the wish list.

Michele said...

Sounds like a winner! I'm in! I'll add it to my wish list for the new year. Great review. I can hear your enjoyment of the book in your post.

S. Krishna said...

I got this one through First Look as well and really liked it! My review is going up on the release date, which is Dec. 30.

Stacie said...

I just read this book over the weekend and left a review on my blog. I also LOVED it! Check it out here....http://sincerelystacie.blogspot.com/2008/11/review-shelter-me-by-juliette-fay.html

Anna said...

Sounds like a great book. I also like the cover a lot!

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric