A JOURNEY TOWARD HEALING, FRIENDSHIP, & LOVE — A REVIEW

An unlikely friendship born in a grief group; a road trip that turns into an individual quest of one kind or another for the women; and the coming together of the loose threads of each woman’s life makes The Long Way Home a memorable and feel-good novel. Jazzy, Marnie, Rita, and Loretta bond on their journey, even as they achieve some of their goals.

Jazzy, the character who inspires each of them, is a psychic whose premonitions, intuitions, and voices from beyond guide her and help her redirect the lives of her new friends.

The road trip was an idea that sprang from Marnie’s desire to see Troy, the teenage boy for whom she was a surrogate mother for years. Devastated after her live-in boyfriend Brian’s unexpected death, Marnie realizes afterwards that the loss of Troy was actually more poignant than her loss of Brian.

Rita’s daughter Melinda was murdered, and in searching for closure, she hopes to finally move on.

For Loretta, joining the others on the road trip helped release her from the prison of her duplex where she has become a recluse.

I thoroughly enjoyed the characters and the somewhat unlikely friendships between them. I liked how Jazzy’s personality helped the others move from the places where they’d been “stuck.”

Along the way, many apparent obstacles seemingly turned into fate having a hand in misdirecting them to unexpected joys.

This story felt like a movie as it unfolded in scenes and settings I could visualize and with all the ingredients that leave lasting impressions. Definitely a five star read.

A CHAOTIC CAULDRON OF WARRING EMOTIONS — A REVIEW

When Andi met Ethan in her thirties, she knew he was just the man she’d been waiting for…and the fact that he had two daughters already felt like the icing on the cake. Andi had always wanted a family.

But family life did not unfold in the way that Andi had anticipated, and their “blended” family began to feel more like a chaotic cauldron of warring temperaments and unsolvable conflicts. At the heart of these conflicts was Ethan’s teenage daughter Emily, whose histrionic behavior and horrific tantrums began to define their daily lives. Sophia, on the other hand, despite being the youngest, presented as calm, mature, and easily loved.

Because Ethan had a neutral kind of personality, he found himself constantly mediating between Andi and Emily; and in trying to calm Emily down during her tantrums, he appeared to be taking her side.

Something happens during Emily’s seventeenth year that changes the dynamics and direction of this family. How will these unexpected events unfurl and cause them all to take another look at things? And what will be the ultimate outcome?

In the beginning, I could see much of the story through Andi’s eyes, and felt her frustration for Emily.

Toward the middle, the author brought Emily’s point of view into play through alternating chapters in first person narrative voice, so finally I could understand some of what she was feeling.

To say more would be bringing spoilers into the mix, so I will only add that I sometimes couldn’t breathe with the intensity of emotions churning up within Another Piece of My Heart. I could understand each of the characters, even as I felt frustrated with most of them at one point or another. In the end, I liked the way things came together, and while I hoped–and even expected–they would play out this way, the ending gave me a very good feeling.

Five stars!

A JOURNEY THROUGH PAIN & HEALING — A REVIEW

Alice Brody is struck down with a mysterious illness at age nineteen.

Her legs are stiff and she cannot walk, nor can she even move them. Pain accompanies every moment of every day. In the hospital, poked and prodded by endless doctors, she is seemingly engulfed by her ailments. Soon pain becomes her everyday companion, with no hope in sight. But then things turn around, the pain dissipates, and she is transferred to a rehabilitation facility.

Alice’s journey through a year of “lying in bed,” with very little progress, takes on a life of its own; we experience, along with Alice, this strange new world peopled with others in various states of disability. Then, slowly, Alice progresses enough for excursions out into the “real” world, and everything shifts. Now we see how the life she lived “in bed,” has become her world. Adjusting to life outside is almost as frustrating.

At points along the way, I found Alice’s perspective humorous and even insightful. But soon I bored of her and the other characters, wishing for it all to end. Perhaps that was the point of Alice in Bed: A Novel. Showing the reader how tedious this life of Alice’s could be. Nevertheless, I would only give this one three stars. Not Schine’s best work.