Thursday, October 14, 2010

Book Review: "Hometown Ties" by Melody Carlson

After decades out of touch, four fifty-something childhood friends have returned to the little coastal town of Clifden, Oregon, where they grew up. They look forward to supporting one another as they reinvent their lives. But second acts can be a challenge, and each woman feels the stretch. Widowed lawyer Janie struggles to leave the past behind and move forward. Emerging artist Marley wrestles with “painter’s block.” Empty-nester Abby fears no one takes her seriously, while beautiful Caroline has all she can do to keep her Alzheimer’s-patient mother at home…and wearing clothes! Plus, old resentments and new misunderstandings are beginning to strain the friendships they all count on. Can the Four Lindas sisterhood continue to thrive in the close quarters of one little hometown?

There aren't many books in Christian fiction that showcase women over the age of 50 being extremely active and fit. Most books tend to display them as being close to elderly, wanting to be grandmothers, meddling in their children's lives or becoming busybodies in their neighborhood. However Melody Carlson has shown a different side to passing that "over the hill" milestone. This book shows that while there are different challenges that a 50 something will face than a 20 something will, life can still be unpredictable and fun if good friends are always close by.

As with the first book in the series, the story revolves around four women who were childhood friends connected by a shared first name. After reconnecting after many years, they have found a rekindled friendship that has become crucial as they now face new challenges in their lives. The story is divided into chapters from each woman's point of view. Personally I once again found Caroline and Abby's stories to be the most interesting. Caroline is dealing with a mother who suffers from Alzheimer's Disease and dementia. It's truly heartbreaking to read about her experiences in dealing with the disease and seeing how it's affected her mother. Abby's story continues with her overbearing husband who puts her down constantly, leaving her emotionally fragile. She thinks that he is having an affair but cannot confirm this. Her story was very emotional as she struggles with her feelings and those towards her husband. I didn't find Marley or Janie's stories to really add to the story. They were interesting but compared to Caroline and Abby, they just felt like filler material until I got back to the other two. Still, reading about how the four friends help out each other is very heartwarming.

While I enjoyed this book very much, there was one little thing that bothered me. Marley's son is gay but that is not the issue. She has accepted him if not agreeing with him because he's her son. The irk I had was that Marley laments that she will never have grandchildren. When asked if they would adopt, she said they won't because her son said it wouldn't be fair to the child. This is the only explanation given. I'm not quite sure why it would be unfair? Is it because the child would get teased for having two dads? Is it because they only want a biological child? I mean kids are going to get teased for just about ANYTHING so using that as an excuse is not really a good one. If they don't want kids, then why not just say it? I just felt this was a very flimsy excuse and either more explanation should have been given or the topic shouldn't have been brought up at all.

Other than this, I enjoyed this book very much. I felt the writing has improved since the first book. There is less dialogue and more focus on moving the story ahead. There is a lot of humor and I was pleased to see references to pop culture being used with the hen-lit set. I especially found the cougar references hilarious. This book focuses more on the characters and their actions. I'll just state this since I saw it brought up elsewhere: the women do socially drink but it's nothing more than a margarita or sangria with friends. No one gets drunk or binge drinks. The focus is more on spending time with friends. I'll be looking forward to reading more books in this series.

Hometown Ties by Melody Carlson is published by David C. Cook (2010)

This ARC was provided by Christian Review of Books

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