Sunday, July 14, 2013

Book Review: "Love All" by Callie Wright

Where would we be without relationships, and the difficulties we encounter with them? If I had the answer to that question, I'd be the wisest person alive, but I do know one thing—the literary world is so much richer because the course of love, and relationships, rarely run smoothly.

At the start of Callie Wright's wonderful new novel Love All, Joanie Cole dies in her sleep, leaving her 86-year-old husband, Bob, behind. Bob moves in with his daughter, Anne, with whom he's had a strained relationship since she was a teenager, and her family. Anne is a successful lawyer who is growing suspicious of her preschool principal husband, Hugh, after too many missed phone calls and family dinners, and too many unconvincing explanations. Hugh is starting to wonder what direction his life is taking, and whether pursuing it is worth the destruction of all he has worked for.

Meanwhile, their daughter, Julia, a smart and sensitive high school sophomore, is in the midst of an emotional upheaval of her own, as she finds herself in an unexpected love triangle with her two best friends, Sam and Carl, and can't quite figure out how to pursue what she wants without displacing the strong bond the trip has. And their son, Teddy, whose confidence on the athletic and romantic fields has always been strong, is getting nervous about his impending departure for college—and then he witnesses something that shakes him emotionally.

All of the relationship trouble in this book is mirrored against a story from the past. When Anne was growing up in the early 1960s, her hometown of Cooperstown, New York was rocked by the publication of The Sex Cure, a Peyton Place-like book that took a swipe at the foibles and infidelities of many of the town's residents at the time. The book cast a pall over Joanie and Bob's marriage, and affected Anne's relationship with her father. When a copy of the book resurfaces in moving Bob to Anne's home, it reopens old wounds and highlights the fact that secrets—particularly those of the heart—rarely remain so.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish. Callie Wright did an excellent job at developing her characters and making you feel something—sympathy, frustration, suspicion, even anger—toward them. Like so many books about relationships (and real-life relationships), Love All was as much about the things that we don't say as it was about the things that are said. The characters are not without their idiosyncrasies, but that is what made the book seem more real, and more compelling.

There's no shortage of books out there about love and the troubles it causes. But Callie Wright's Love All is definitely a book worth reading, and a worthy addition to that pantheon of books that explore the quirks of the human heart—and the mind. Excellent.

No comments:

Post a Comment