In Clarice: Her Journey Through Life, the title character begins as a teenager, escaping her rural roots for a job as a nanny in the city. In thrall to her employer and longing to imitate her seeming sophistication, Clarice makes a few wrong turns.
She develops an eating disorder and returns to, then leaves her faith. She grows up, marries, has a family of her own, and changes jobs several times. Her happy marriage ends tragically, and after a series of Internet dates she almost remarries but things don’t work out. She’s resilient, though, and ready for the next phase of life.
Author Harriet Maxwell makes these transitions deftly, and Clarice is a likable character. This could be a compelling romance if Maxwell would let the dramatic elements of the plot breathe a bit more here. Instead, we end up being rushed from crisis to crisis (bulimia, marriage, birth, death, et cetera) with little time to empathize or understand.
Another problem is that the book presents itself as a paranormal romance. The cover art pictures an eerily green rope pulled within one strand of snapping against a black background. The back cover mentions Clarice’s visit to a fortune teller as “lurk(ing) in the back of her mind,” and the book opens with her complaining, “Years of talking to various guides, sages, clairvoyants and therapists, wasted!” A reader could be forgiven for expecting a supernatural thriller, or at least a smidgen of occult energy.
While Clarice does go to a therapist and visits a fortune teller, these visits are as perfunctory as a trip to Tesco for digestives (the novel is set in England and American readers should be forewarned that the British English is untranslated).
Clarice’s character would be worth the emotional investment if her story were allowed to unfold more naturally Â¬– and if it were clear what genre her journey through life was taking place in.
Also available as an ebook.