Happy Friday, guys!
I hope you guys are recovering nicely from a bountiful feast yesterday, and also finding excellent deals today.
I have the next couple of days off, so I'm getting caught up on my reading! We're reviewing a couple of books today, beginning with Young Widows Club.
Alexandra has been on my radar since Tumble & Fall, and I was curious at how the premise of this book would play out.
Published November 10th 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Format read: ARC via publisher
However, readers will likely be divided on Alexandra Coutt's storytelling approach. This is a book that is very much about moving forward and trying to leave the past behind, and opinions will likely be divided on how this impacts the strength of the story between Tam and Noah.
Coutts introduces us to Tamsen "Tam" Baird, a seventeen-year-old free spirit who has just lost her nineteen-year-old husband. Where as husband Noah was once the center of Tam's world, she's now struggling with the idea of just what to do with her life while she's gone.
While I went into the book expecting a lot of romance - more on this later - Coutts surprised me with her decision to focus primarily on Tam's recovery process. Though Tam does a fairly good job of holding it together on the outside, she's an absolute mess on the inside, unsure of how to live without Noah, or the band that they were supposed to have supported together.
Coutts paints a sympathetic portrait of Tam as a girl who is stuck between two worlds; she's gotten a taste of life as a willingly married adult couple, but is now expected to resume the life of a seventeen-year-old teenager. It's hardly surprising that these expectations drives Tam toward bursts of rebellion, including one that results in her being sent back to school, and also into group therapy with fellow widows.
As Tam struggles with the idea of confiding in friends and fellow therapy attendees, Coutts does an exceptional job of showing just how depression and the recovery process are pretty much individual to the person experiencing it. There's no easy fix-all or quick solution, and it's up to each person to find out what can help them move on. There's also no shame in experiencing setbacks, something Tam experiences several times.
One of Tam's most poignant setbacks involves a romance with an older group therapy attendee. The romance isn't unusual considering what both Tam and the attendee have in common, but Coutts presents a strong reminder that emotional health is often needed when pursuing something new like this, and it's both embarrassing and oddly reassuring, when Tam bluntly realizes that she may not just be there yet.
Where readers may find issue with the book, is the lack of background (or really, personality) for Noah. While readers never doubt Tam's commitment to both their long-term relationship and eventual marriage, Coutts never really elaborates on just why Noah was so compelling and/or romantic. There's no explanation for why he would support Tam giving up her life for his, which weakens the relationship considerably.
However, it's worth keeping in mind that Tam's life is very different from that of a non-islander, a point she stresses throughout the book. What seems strange and inexplicable to readers can likely be viewed as an island normal, and it's definitely worthy of discussion.
Bottom line: This is a teenaged romance with an non-traditional foundation. Readers may struggle with some of the elements of the story, but Coutts has written a thoughtful tale of grief and recovery.
Tam's journey is an imperfect one, full of moments of misunderstandings and repeated setbacks. But that's what makes her story so compelling. This is a young girl who has voluntarily taken on more mature, adult responsibilities, and her struggle to reconcile that knowledge, with the expectations for her to be a teenager again, send her on a journey that's tragic, painful, but also helps her to get to know herself better.
Strongly recommend for fans of contemporary fiction. The Young Widows Club isn't necessarily a traditional romance, but it's love note to learning how to live your life and what it takes to start over and move on.