January 2009, Women's Fiction
Forever, $6.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0446406899
Itís a shame to find a book by a new author that would be a real treat for you if it wasnít for one huge problem. This is what happened to me while reading Lisa Daleís debut novel, Simple Wishes.
Adele Matin is returning to the Pennsylvania cabin that she and her mother visited throughout her youth. Adele was recently fired, evicted and shunned by her friends in New York City. With only this one connection left, she heads for the mountains to lick her wounds. Thinking her mother, Marge, was a monster of the highest caliber, Adele hasnít seen her since she was 17. Nor did Adele return for her mother's funeral six years ago. Now that she has returned to her roots, basically because she has no where else to go, she has to face her past and try to make sense of it.
Adele is not easily won over by the locals who called Marge a friend. But, as long as the conversation doesnít turn to the topic of Marge, she is happy to get along with the friendly Korean woman next door and another neighbor who happens to be a sexy artist. Adele goes through many ups and downs during her time at the cabin slowly finding out more about Marge and her motives for treating Adele the way she did. A few enlightening moments happen as she scrounges around for information - some good, some bad. It all leads to a conclusion that can only be summed up as mediocre.
I grabbed this book to read over the weekend spent at a friendís cabin in the Pocono Mountains. Judging by the picnic basket and pretty sunflower on the cover, and the mention or ďruralĒ Pennsylvania on the back copy, Iím thinking itís a summer piece set in the country. To my surprise itís set in the Pocono Mountains during the fall and winter. I can say with firsthand knowledge that Lisa Dale captured the region to a T. The foliage, people, descriptions of towns and shopsÖI had to look behind me a few times during my mini vacation to make sure the author wasnít standing behind me with a typewriter.
The scenic life depicted drives a lot of the plot, as well as the secondary characters. If it wasnít for the character of Adele, I might have had a keeper here. But there she was in all her whiny, woe-is-me glory. Bottom line: I couldnít stand her.
Because of my dislike for Adele, I found it hard to connect with the wonderful secondary characters that, for reasons beyond my comprehension, enjoyed this womanís presence. Maybe Iíve heard too many stories and known more people than Iíd like to that have been abused as children. Unless the author forgot to fill us in on some of the more dreadful things that Marge did, I canít get past Adeleís complete animosity towards the woman. Marge wasnít an affectionate woman, she always kept her bedroom door locked and picked out clothes Adeleís clothing well into her teens. I am aware the mental abuse can be just as damaging to an adolescent as physical, but I wasnít shown enough evidence to prove that Adele suffered unduly.
Simple Wishes is written entirely from Adeleís perspective, exacerbating the low grade. Maybe if I saw her through a different pair of eyes, my opinion would have risen. Jay, the sexy artist, was a very interesting character. I liked his laid back attitude and his careful way with Adele. The romance itself was less successful. We see the start of attraction and the tentative steps towards a relationship, but the fun, the scenes that would have showed that these two people know how to get along and have a good time - and I donít mean sex - was offstage. On their first real date, Adele is extremely hesitant until Jay offers to show her how to dance. Next thing you know itís the next day and Adeleís professing what a great time they had and thatís it.
Lisa Dale has a good writing style with the ability to suck you in and I think sheís an author to keep an eye on. Some may sympathize more with Adele than I did and find Simple Wishes enchanting. To them, I wish them happy reading. Me, I wasnít thrilled.
-- Lisa Gardineer
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