Just the Facts: by Melody Carlson. 288 p. Published August 2011 by Abingdon Press. Advanced review copy provided courtesy of the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.
Who Cares? Inspirational Fiction
Short Bio: Anna Larson journeys through a mid-life crisis of sorts when she returns to her hometown for her mother’s funeral and takes care of her late parents’ estate. She finds that living by the river helps her to deal with the disappointment of wanting a deeper relationship with an uninterested teenager daughter and the trauma of living under a manipulative mother-in-law. In her old hometown, she rediscovers her Native American heritage through the research of a doctoral student, Hazel, and gains the help of Hazel’s contractor son to transform her parents’ local mom-and-pop store into a riverside inn.
Eyewitness Account: Although I have been a Melody Carlson fan in the past, this book was a bit of a disappointment. It just might not have been my particular brand of tea, but I thought that the plot moved very slowly, the main character seemed oblivious and wimpy, and the relationships rather stereotyped (teenage daughter who is bratty and disinterested, overbearing and manipulative mother-in-law, etc.). Anna’s relationship with her mother-in-law is complicated by her dependence on the woman, and that situation is resolved much too quickly and easily. Similarly, for such a shy mouse of a person, her new romance blooms into marriage far too quickly. However, I did like a few things – at the top of the list, I really enjoyed the emphasis on Anna’s Native American heritage and exploring the idea that we often come to value later in life what we despised when we are younger. Anna’s mom and grandmother were the most interesting characters in my opinion, but got much less development than the other living characters. If the book had been centered around them, I probably would have liked it more. Anna was just a hard person for me to like since she just came across as a naive doormat to me. I thought this series would have the same warmth and charm that Carlson’s older Whispering Pines series, but it didn’t have the same feel to me.
★★☆☆ Plot Development
★★★☆☆ Writing Style
★★★☆ Original Idea
★★☆☆ Page Turner