Wednesday, August 15, 2007

New Release Spotlight: The Rest of Her Life

The Rest of Her Life by Laura Moriarty

Smart but not weighty and a page-turner for both its plot and character, Laura Moriarty’s second novel, The Rest of Her Life, is perfect reading for a long summer afternoon, a sleepless night, that commute back home. It quiets the mind; it focuses it with beautiful language.

By page one, eighteen-year-old Kara Churchill has already accidentally hit and killed another teenager, Bethany Cleese, with her car. That physical tragedy frames a story about another kind of loss, the emotional distance mothers and daughters face each other across. Leigh Churchill struggles to connect with Kara during this time, but she’s prevented by a history of family tension—from the relationship between Leigh’s mother and grandmother through Leigh’s disconnect from Kara—which formed long before the accident.

Moriarty’s characters swell off the page, lifted by the author’s attention to unique and multisensory details: “She’d taken off her hoop earrings, and she was shaking them in a cupped hand as if they were a pair of dice,” and “Bethany had leaned toward the other girl and whispered ‘Ten to two.’ Leigh could still hear the three soft t’s.” Even the minor characters are considered thoughtfully. Leigh’s sister, Pam, arrives in town in red sweatpants and an extra-large yellow T-shirt stamped with the phrase “Don’t leave until the miracle happens.” She had lost all her belongings to water damage, and had been staying with friends. Moriarty could have ignored her outfit, but detailing it adds a clue to the financial status of Pam and her friends and digs deeper, the shirt slogan indicating that her friend is a recovering alcoholic.

Just as it takes Leigh several drafts to produce an acceptable sympathy note to Bethany’s mother, all the characters learn their lessons slowly, connecting pieces over the course of the novel, rather than just in a rush at the end. It takes a talented author to move a character from feelings of selfishness and stupidity, which haunt Leigh, to the equally quiet and introspective gift of mercy. Moriarty succeeds.

Review by Kristin Thiel, Indigo Editing, LLC

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