How does a reader decide whether to read a book? A strange way to start a review, I know, but it is an intregal part of my rating on this book. If an author is new or unknown to me and my reading buddies, often I will choose to read or not read a book based on its published synopsis. Such was the case with The Ninth Step by Barbara Taylor Sissel. I had never given much thought to the title of the book, but it was apparent early in the story that it referred the the ninth step in AA's 12 step program, the one where a person makes amends.
Let me just state upfront that the rating on this book has more to do with expectations and less to do with the quality of the story. I enjoyed the story of Cotton O'Dell and his quest to make amends in his life to those that were impacted by a single bad choice that he made. I thought the author did a good job with the character of Cotton, detailing his myriad of emotions as his quest for sobriety and redemption progressed. I actually think I would have liked the book a lot more if it had been marketed as such. At least then I would have known what to expect.
I really wanted to give this book 4 stars, but just could not quite do it. Why? First of all, because the synopsis set up the story in a way that the author did not deliver. I felt that the story was really about Cotton and that Livie was a very minor player in the grand scheme of things. In fact, the best part of the story, Cotton's relationship with his mother, and with the Latimer family, isn't even mentioned in the synopsis, yet these are the relationships that make the meat of the story. I felt that there were many things in the synopsis that the author did not deliver on, while leaving out the things that really made the story fly. It was almost as is, somewhere along the line, a decision was made that the story would get a better following if it was marketed as a romantic redemption story rather than what it actually was. The chronicle of one man's quest to pull himself out of the thralls of alcholism and get his life back on track.