As the title indicates, Carol Houston’s novel focuses on four characters, each in turmoil. Avril’s husband is convicted of fraudulent business practices and dies in jail; veterinarian Katie’s pilot husband cheats on her and she miscarries; Ph.D. candidate Susan unknowingly plagiarizes her thesis research and is dismissed from the university; and physician Justine shoulders unjustified guilt over a patient’s death.
Overwhelmed by life, these women flee to The Haven, a voluntary residential facility in Lancashire, England, where they bond, conquer fear, and learn how to successfully “live their new lives in their old world.”
The contemporary theme of this book fits easily into the women’s fiction category. Yet while each character’s story is compelling, this book lacks the necessary narrative techniques that would make it an absorbing read for its intended audience. The story is told in a linear fashion, offering no surprises, and too often detours into irrelevant character history and other tangents. The explanation of Susan’s Ph.D. research, for example, involves almost two pages of Hadrian’s Wall history.
In addition, the author “tells” readers what is happening but rarely, if ever, “shows” this action, for instance, she writes: “The new term got underway fast and furiously.” Readers would benefit instead by “seeing” Susan “running down the hall, papers flying from her satchel, late for her appointment with the dean.” Alas, this seldom happens.
When the writing occasionally turns lyrical, it can be lovely: “(her eyes) were a deep grey, but so clear they passed her quiet calm onto others.” Curiously, this book has little dialogue, most of which is unclear due to odd punctuation. This lack often gives it the air of a research paper rather than a work of fiction.
This is a compassionate look at modern-day women surmounting devastating situations, but it will take dedicated readers to bring the book alive in their own imaginations.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.