17 January 2013

Thursday's Review: Memoir of a Good Death by Anne Sorbie

If you decide to read Anne Sorbie 's Memoir of a Good Deathand it starts a bit slow for you, don't give up and don't despair. That is exactly what happened to me with this book. It is the story of Rheegan, a women in her thirties who, along with her mother, Sarah, is trying to deal with the death of her father. 

In the beginning, I had a hard time identifying with the main characters, especially that of Rheegan. My first impression of her was that she was going to be another one of those run-of-the mill self absorbed characters that you sometimes find in books on family dynamics. As the story progressed, though, and I got into the rhythm of the book, I became enthralled by the behaviors of both Rheegan, and Sarah. Soon I was greedily turning pages, wondering where the story was going to go, what strange behaviors the characters were going to exhibit next, and how those behaviors were going to impact both them and the people around them. By the middle of the book, I was wondering exactly how Rheegan was going to die (no spoiler, she tells us she is going to die in the first paragraph of the book). And then I got to the end, which smacked me right in the face. By the time I finished this book, I realized that this is no run-of-the-mill story of family dynamics and mother-daughter relationships. Rather it is a story of two women dealing with the aftermath of death, while trying desperately to reconcile their very different ways of handling the situation. 

Rheegan and Sarah are not the only interesting characters in this book. The author has filled the book with people who are anything but ordinary. In some cases we get to spend quite a bit of time with them, in other cases, we are only afforded brief glimpses. Even these brief glimpses, though, are fascinating. There were quite a few of them that were important, but not integral to the story, but I wished I could get to know a bit more about them. 

The plot of the book flowed well. One of the things I particularly liked was that it was not exactly straightforward, but tended to meander around a bit, like the river that both Rheegan and Sarah lived next to. The author's use of foreshadowing was good and her hooks certainly got me thinking and trying to guess at the end result. You see, even though we know up front that Rheegan will die, it is the uncertainty of the circumstances and timing of that death that kept me turning the pages. 

If there was one thing, though, that kept me from giving this book 5 stars, it was the fact that the author made some plot hints that never panned out. This can be a good thing as in the use of a "red herring" in a mystery story, but in this case, there were some definite comments made that seemed at first to be important in some way, but that ended up going nowhere. One, in particular, was mentioned several times, but the dots were never connected. I found this just a bit confusing, and at the same time disappointing. I kept waiting for the big revelation as to the significance of the statement, only to have it never explained. At least not to my satisfaction. 

All in all, though, I would class this book as a "hidden gem" as I don't think many people have found it yet. I am giving it 4 starts and would suggest it to those who like books on family dynamics by authors like Sue MillerAnita Shreve, or Jodi Picoult

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