“Where the Edge Is” by Grainne Murphy

Genre: Literary FictionWhere the edge is
Publisher: Legend Press
Pub. Date: Sept. 15, 2020

The book’s title refers to the edge of a sinkhole, where most of its characters find themselves trapped. It may also be a metaphor for those who, through no fault of their own, live on the edge of their emotions. A town in rural Ireland wakes up to the news that a road has collapsed, swallowing up a bus with eight people stuck inside.  As the vehicle slowly falls deeper into the earth, the media is all over the story interfering with the rescue team’s attempt to get them out before it is too late. Doesn’t this sound like an action-packed, plot-driven novel?  It is actually a character-driven tale that explores trauma, loss, grief, and survival. Each chapter portrays the lives of the passengers and their families. As well as a news reporter and her ex-husband who is the fire department liaison.  No, this does not morph into a cheap romance novel. Their reconnection, though a bit contrived, helps explore the novel’s broader themes.

Racial and identity issues are examined when the white male bus driver pulls out a brown-skinned female passenger. The author has such control over her characters’ voices that the reader can hear them speak.  He is a regular sort of guy who just wants to please his beloved aging mom and win back his ex-wife.  A sweetheart of a man, yet months before the incident he was suspended for saying a racial slur.  The woman who he saves has lived in Ireland since she was a small child, married to an Irish man, can sing all the Irish songs, and has adapted to the Irish way of life including going to Sunday Mass, but still, the press refers to her as a Pakistani.  Murphy nails her frustration.

While never feeling forced, the author will tug at your heart describing the underground conversations of those trapped in the bus, and the panic of their families above the ground. The author’s ability to go back and forth in time, to reflect on her characters’ multiple points of view, while never losing the feeling of their desperation is admirable. Her talent makes the characters stick with you, haunting you, well after you have read the last page and know the outcome of their ordeal. I was so impressed with the storytelling in this debut novel that I googled the author.  I was not surprised to learn that many of her short stories were shortlisted and longlisted for literary awards.  Without a doubt, I will be on the lookout for her next novel.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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“Dear Edward” by Ann Napolitano

Genre:  Literary FictionDear Edward
Publisher:  Random House
Pub. Date:  Jan. 14, 2020

After losing everything, a pre-teen boy discovers there are still reasons to continue living. This is just the sort of sappy novel that I usually do not care for. Surprisingly, I enjoyed and recommend “Dear Edward.” The unique writing style is what made the difference for me. The reader goes in knowing that twelve-year-old Edward’s older brother, his parents, and almost 200 other passengers will die when the plane crashes. Edward is the sole survivor. The book is divided into two timelines, the past, which is during the flight, and the present. On the plane, we get to understand the family dynamics of Edward’s immediate family. We also meet a Wall Street rising star, an unlikeable septuagenarian business billionaire who is the rising star’s role model, an unmarried young woman who takes a pregnancy test while on the plane, a wounded vet with a secret, and an uninhibited, possibly crazy woman who happens to believe in reincarnation. These well-developed characters are very much a part of Edward’s story, creating interesting storylines that are not about overcoming tragedy. This helps make the novel less fatiguing to read since the bulk of the story in the present describes Edward’s overwhelming depression.

The events that occur on the flight are divided by time right down to the minute of the crash. (Boarding your next plane might feel different after reading this one). Even though we know the ending, this part of the tale still reads like a page-turning mystery. In the present, we meet a few new characters. In Edward’s new life, disagreeing with myself, there are characters that read a bit saccharine. His aunt and uncle, new best friend and high school principal are just too self-sacrificing and flawless to feel like true people. This contrasts with the realness felt in the characters from the plane ride. Still, in my mind, Napolitano’s weaving of past and present makes up for that over-sweetening. Plus, by the end of the novel, it can also read as a coming-of-age story, which is a genre I have always liked. Clearly, the novel is not all doom and gloom. By the end of the novel, as the author intended, I had a smile on my face. Heartwarming endings can be a good thing.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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“The Promise” by Teresa Driscoll

My Rating:   Three StarsThe Promise
Genre:          Psychological Thriller
Publisher:    Thomas & Mercer
Pub. Date:   Feb. 7, 2019

On a personal note, my husband had open heart surgery on Feb. 8th and remains in the hospital from complications.  He is not out of the woods yet, but he is on the mend.  Thank you for all your support.

I hope you understand why this review only has a star rating.  I miss reviewing but at the moment I am too preoccupied.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the author at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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