Thursday, January 5, 2012

Review: One Moment, One Morning

Summary: The Brighton to London line. The 7:44 am train. Cars packed with commuters. One woman occupies her time observing the people around her. Opposite, a girl puts on her make-up. Across the aisle, a husband strokes his wife’s hand. Further along, another woman flicks through a glossy magazine. Then, abruptly, everything changes: a man collapses, the train is stopped, and an ambulance is called.

For at least three passengers on the 7:44 on that particular morning, life will never be the same again. There’s Lou, in an adjacent seat, who witnesses events first hand. Anna, who’s sitting further up the train, impatient to get to work. And Karen, the man’s wife. 

Telling the story of the week following that fateful train journey, One Moment, One Morning is a stunning novel about love and loss, about family and – above all– friendship. A stark reminder that, sometimes, one moment is all it takes to shatter everything. Yet it also reminds us that somehow, despite it all, life can and does go on. -- St. Martin's Griffin

I admit that I was in a bit of a reading slump when I picked up ONE MOMENT, ONE MORNING by Sarah Rayner. I was extremely busy with the holidays and also not feeling so well when I sat down to read this novel. I was in the mood for a comfort read, and I thought ONE MOMENT, ONE MORNING might hit the spot. However, I quickly discovered (just within the first few pages) that this wasn't exactly an upbeat novel. And as a result, I'm not exactly sure it was the right time to read it for me.

That's not to say that I didn't appreciate this novel because there were many very good things about this story, but I do have to wonder if I would have enjoyed it more had I waited just a few weeks (i.e. after the holidays) to read it. You see, a man dies unexpectedly on a commuter train and ONE MOMENT, ONE MORNING tells the story of how this life-altering event brings three women together. So right off the bat, the book delves into the life of the widow Karen -- who just happens to be around my age and the mother of two young children. Maybe the novel resonated a little too much for me, but I was definitely affected by her story.

ONE MOMENT, ONE MORNING also follows the lives of Karen's life-long best friend Anna who is in a destructive relationship with an alcoholic and Lou, a young woman who is hiding her sexuality from her mother. (Not exactly upbeat situations either, right?) Their lives intersect on that Monday morning commute (hence the title - ONE MOMENT, ONE MORNING); and the book shows how one event can forever change your life. Through their friendship, each woman finds the strength to move on and also make some positive changes in her life.

So while Karen, Anna and Lou are all dealing with some pretty major baggage, the book isn't as sad as you might expect. Or at least Anna and Lou's stories were as upsetting to me. I was still really affected by Karen's story. Rather, the novel shows the many benefits that a good friend can provide especially when someone is in need. In addition, even though the book begins with the ending of a life and deals with grief and loss, I thought ONE MOMENT, ONE MORNING shows the strength and resilience of the human spirit and focuses on living. And for that reason, I think the novel did end on a positive note.

In addition to the overall themes of the story, I did appreciate the way this novel was written. The entire story is presented in a one week time period. It just goes to show you how much your life can change on a dime! Sections of the book are divided into the days of the week, while the individual chapters begin with the time of the day. The author also uses flashbacks to give the characters' background stories and I thought she did a good job of incorporating them into the novel with fairly smooth transitions. In addition, Ms. Rayner effectively juggled the three women's stories while keeping them distinct for the reader.

ONE MOMENT, ONE MORNING would make a very interesting book club pick. There is a reading guide available which touches upon many of the issues I mentioned earlier. Some of the themes you might want to explore include love, loss, grief, secrets, relationships, friendships, and new beginnings. I do think this novel will resonate with women, especially those in their 30s and 40s; and there is no doubt that it will give most readers some food for thought.

I appreciated ONE MOMENT, ONE MORNING, although I do wish I had read it at a different time. It's a well-written novel with some very interesting characters, and I recommend it for fans of women's fiction.

Thanks to the publisher for sending a review copy of this novel.


bermudaonion said...

It sounds like this is a very powerful book. Friendships really can help see us through difficult times.

The Book Chick said...

I get in reading slumps like that, and I'll pick up a book only to find that it was not the right one for me!

This one certainly sounds good, though, and I'll certainly add it to my wish list on your recommendation!

Sandy Nawrot said...

I think books like this are great for snapping you back into line when you start to take husbands and best friends for granted (we all do). Somehow I gravitate towards these books right when I need them the most. But in a reading slump, I'm not sure. A reading slump book almost needs to be easy to read and very uplifting.

Beth(bookaholicmom) said...

I love a good story about friendships. This sounds like it fits the bill. I'm a mood reader so I get where you are coming from.

Anonymous said...

I like the cover on this one. Teacups and tragedy seem to go together. I can see where it might not have been the exact time that would be best for you to read it, but I do think I'll put it on my list. Thanks for highlighting it!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

This sounds so interesting. For some reason I really like stories about lives changing on trains!

Laura at Library of Clean Reads said...

I like stories about friendships but I appreciate your heads up about reading it when the mood is right. I like the books's cover too. The teacups look precariously stacked and reflect well the book's tone, I think.

TU said...

Dear Julie--i just happened upon your review of my new novel, The World We Found. i had to let you know how much i appreciated your comments and your nuanced reading of the novel. Thank you so much for taking the time--I am truly grateful for thoughtful readers like you.
All good wishes for a happy new year and may you find many more books to love, this year.