August 2012, Women's Fiction
Mira, $14.95, 480 pages, Amazon ASIN 0778313557 Part of a series
While I love books that make me laugh, reading them continuously would be like a steady diet of sweets. And if you have ever overdosed on processed sugar, then you know it can make you start craving real food. Womenís fiction books are like my real food. Though there is not the always the Hollywood romantic ending, the books still give me hope and reflect the ebb and flow of life Ė that bad thing happen to good people but good things happen too. One Mountain Away is one of those books.
Living in the shadow of the townís drunk and shyster created a burning desire in Charlotte Hale for prestige and respect. While her ambition to eradicate all vestiges of her familyís white trash reputation propelled her to great success, her dependence on the opinions of others drove her husband and daughter away. For ten years she has been satiated by being the controlling force in her universe, but now she has been hit with something beyond her control. After being diagnosed with leukemia, she is left grappling with her own mortality and the realization of how empty her life is - filled with other self-absorbed professionals but lacking family and friends.
As she looks back to her past from her early childhood to early adulthood, when she left behind her Appalachian roots and moved to Asheville, then to her marriage and motherhood, her mistakes seem so glaringly obvious. She hadnít planned on marrying Ethan, her ex-husband. They were like night and day. She wanted to get ahead and Ethan wanted to make a difference. Her unplanned pregnancy changed that. Crippled by insecurities and her past, her relationship with her daughter Taylor was challenging from the very beginning. But it was her actions after sixteen-year-old Taylor announced her own pregnancy that created the irreversible breach between them.
Craving contact now, she is reduced to spying on her granddaughter, Maddie, when she visits the park. It is during one of the clandestine observations that she is spotted by her ex-husband. And even though he has long since moved on - both remarrying and divorcing again - she doubts that he is interested in helping her to reconcile with their daughter.
As she begins her journey to right some wrongs, she opens her home to an apprehensive young woman faced with an unplanned pregnancy. Along the way, she also has help from Reverend Analiese Wagner and maybe another higher power. The story moves from back and forth from the past to the present as Charlotte either tells her story, or writes it in her journal.
Richards is an extremely talented wordsmith. Her multi-faceted conflicts and her characterís imperfections give her books such a sense of realism and relatability. I like that she can make her characters likeable even when they do unlikeable things. Another thing that she excels at is illustrating character growth. These strengths along with her wonderful storytelling never fail to entertain me. While I donít typically seek out emotional books, I canít resist hers.
Another aspect that I really enjoy about her books is that they are very well researched. While I can't attest to the accuracy of the descriptions of Asheville, it is very apparent that Ms. Richards did her research on temporal lobe epilepsy - a condition that Maddie has. Everything from the predisposition of ex-preemies to suffer seizures to the difficulty in controlling them, and the treatment plan are all correct.
The notation that this is a Goddesses Anonymous book sent me to Ms. Richardís web page where I confirmed that this book is first in a series. The reason I mention it is that the Goddess portion of the book is somewhat problematic for me. I do believe that each individual has the right to worship freely, and amass strength from diverse resources but toward the end of this book, it just seemed contrived as a connecting thread for the books rather than a true belief system.
However, that point is a minor quibble in a very poignant, moving story. If you are looking for something to touch your heart then donít miss One Mountain Away.
-- Leigh Davis
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