by Barbara Stark-Nemon
This is a novel about making hard cider and being an entrepreneur...on the surface. Stark-Nemon writes with a strong sense of place and her longing to draw the reader into what she loves almost lost me in the beginning. For me, this book seemed autobiographical, as if the whole purpose was to write about her own life, fictionalized, but I am glad I stayed and kept reading. When the author finally drew me into the deeper plot, I realized that this is a book about how families shift and change, always, and how we learn to accept those earthquakes.
Stark-Nemon exposes what she loves...hard apple cider and the process of making it, her hometowns, her sons, tarot cards, hot baths, running, knitting...and wrote with candor about infertility, adoption, and raising difficult children. Her protagonist, Abbie Rose, is finely drawn, if overly emotional and not always likable as she bumbles through the upheavals of mid-life and decision-making. Julia, the mysterious young woman who shows up on her doorstep, is also very well written. If the other characters seemed to be stick figures, these two women make up for it. Abbie's husband, Steven, may very well be one of the loneliest man I have ever read about. I wish she had fleshed him out.
The novel opens with a house fire which, though dramatic, doesn't, in the end, having anything to do with the plot of the book. This will not matter to a reader who wants a relaxing and interesting read with a beautiful setting. This book ends with all of the warm-fuzzy that a reader could want. And it gives us an insight into how we might process and accept change within our own families, how we might go through a trial in life with grace. Though we will not all process things the way Abbie does, we will recognize ourselves as women, as mothers, as those who often must redefine our roles in mid-life, and we might possibly see ourselves in Abbie's marriage as well.
Barbara Stark-Nemon, author of the award-winning novel Even in Darkness, lives, writes, cycles, swims, and gardens in Ann Arbor and Northport, Michigan. Degrees in English literature, art history and speech-language pathology from the University of Michigan led to a career as a teacher and speech therapist working with deaf children. Stark-Nemon writes novels, short stories, essays, and articles.
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