Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Review: Falling Home

Summary: Revised and expanded for this new trade paperback edition, Karen White's novel tells a poignant story of two estranged sisters. At twenty Cassie Madison left her hometown of Walton, Georgia, for New York City, where she has reinvented herself-from losing herself in her career to squashing her accent. But one night a single phone call brings back everything she's tried to forget. She hasn't spoken to her sister since Harriet stole Cassie's fiancé and married him. But now Harriet's on the line with news that their father is dying.

As she makes the trip back, the only thing that frightens Cassie more than losing her father is seeing Harriet and the family that should have been hers. But she can't help loving her nephews and nieces any more than she can help feeling at home again in Walton. As she fights a surprising reaction to a forgotten friend, and faces an unexpected threat to the family she'd once left behind, Cassie comes to realize that moving on doesn't always mean moving away from who you are. -- NAL

Ever since I've started blogging, I've noticed how many people just love books written by Karen White. I actually read THE MEMORY OF WATER (my review) and enjoyed it for the most part; however, I knew I needed to give her books another try. I recently read FALLING HOME, her latest novel (well kind of latest, but more on that later), and I found that I did like it better. I still won't go so far as to say that I loved, it but I did enjoy the story and found myself caught up in the lives of the characters.

Overall, I really liked the story and the characters in FALLING HOME. Based on the two Karen White books that I have read, I think she does a wonderful job of creating memorable characters. I loved Harriet and I eventually grew to love Cassie, and I definitely appreciated the dynamics and drama between the sisters. I also really enjoyed seeing how much Cassie changed/matured throughout the story. In many ways, FALLING HOME was a coming-of-age (in addition to a coming home) story for Cassie. I have to admit that Cassie was a little hard for me to like at the beginning of the story --  I found her to be a little snobby and self-absorbed. But I had a feeling that she would come around and learn to appreciate her hometown (and one of its residents!)

In addition to the main characters, I also really liked how Ms. White portrayed the small Southern town where the book takes place -- Walton. It's been awhile since I've lived in the South, but I thought she managed to capture the essence of a small town and its residents perfectly. But what really stood out to me was how the novel demonstrated so many of the cultural differences in society. For example, the book showed the difference in city versus rural life as well as a major Northern city versus a small Southern town. However, on an even deeper level, the book takes a look at the bigger theme of change. Walton was experiencing the potential for a great deal of modernization and there were definitely two schools of thought shown in the novel. I found that this story actually made me reconsider my desire for all things shiny and new, and I love that there was a message about the value in keeping some things the same.

If I had one issue with the book, it would have to be that I found the story to be rather predictable. I don't know if that made me enjoy the book any less, but I wasn't really surprised at all by where the story went. There were quite a few cliches especially in the portrayal of the characters -- Cassie was the city girl who eventually realizes that "you can go back home", Cassie's fiance was a pretentious (and selfish) city slicker, Sam was the "perfect" guy who wanted to preserve Walton, etc. And I had a strong feeling about the direction that Harriet's story would go. However, I still found myself liking FALLING HOME and I couldn't help but be touched by the story.

Remember when I mentioned that FALLING HOME is sort of Ms. White's latest novel. Well... FALLING HOME is being re-released today, November 2nd. It was initially released in 2002 with a limited distribution. Ms. White evidently knew she had a great story, so she did some major revisions for this paperback release. I think it's kind of cool that she was able to take all of the things she's learned in writing the past few years and incorporate it into one of her earlier novels.

FALLING HOME would make an excellent book club selection. There is a reading guide with fourteen questions in the back of the book but I wasn't able to find it on-line. There are quite a few topics which are perfect for book clubs who appreciate women's fiction. Some themes that I would like to explore a little further include returning home, urban versus rural lives, sister relationships, parent/child relationships, forgiveness, redemption, acceptance, love, devotion, childhood memories, tradition, modernization, and secrets. As you can clearly see, this novel covers a lot of relevant (and intriguing) topics.

I enjoyed FALLING HOME and I think most Karen White fans will agree. I was deeply touched by the story and found that the characters really stayed with me long after I finished the novel.

Thanks to Joan Schulhafer Publishing & Media Consulting for sending me a review copy of this novel.


Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

It is really interesting that she went back and reworked the book. I had heard about authors revising works between hardcover and paperback, but I'm not quite sure how I feel about that. It seems weird to be able to buy two different versions of the same book.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I don't mind a predictable plot, if it's a plot you have to love! Like the movie Letters to Juliet - you knew how it would come out immediately, but who would argue with a nice love story?!!!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Swapna said the same thing about the predictability. Which I suppose is OK if you are in the right state of mind. I think White's books tend to be cozy, and while that won't ususally blow your mind, it is comfortable. My mom LOVES her books.

Marg said...

I have only read a couple of Karen White's books but I can definitely see how they would be comfortable reads due to the style of writing.

Beth F said...

I liked reading both your review and Swapna's today because you had similar things to say. I will likely read her more recent books first.

Anonymous said...

I've never read any of Karen White's books though Memory of Water has been on my list for some time. I would be interested to see both the old and the new version and see how and what she changed.

Jen (Devourer of Books) said...

I'm so fascinated that she reworked an old book! I have this on my stack so I only sort of skimmed your review, but I'm looking forward to it.

bermudaonion said...

Karen White actually spoke about the process of re-working this book when she was here for a Book Your Lunch event. I'm looking forward to reading this to see how it all turned out.

Unknown said...

I've only read one book by this author, On Folly Beach, which I really enjoyed. I understand when you say you found this story a little predictable. After reading a few reviews of Falling Home, I thought that it sounded like several other books I've read or read about.

I've never heard of an author taking an earlier published book and revising it and publishing the revision. It seems kind of strange. I wonder how different the new version is!

Thanks for a great review!

Anonymous said...

Sometimes predictable is okay. I'll be reading this one, so I'll find out for myself soon enough. I've read a few of Karen White's books and enjoyed them, especially On Folly Beach.