Sunday, February 26, 2017

Review: It's You

My reading trend of the moment seems to be for devouring books that aren't perfect but I find captivating all the same.  Yes, there are quibbles (there's usually quibbles with me...) but something in the storytelling or character development speaks to me on some instinctive level.  That's how It's You by Jane Porter was. One of Porter's women's fiction titles (she also writes for Harlequin Presents and is the founder of Tule Publishing), this offers everything I tend to like about women's fiction - namely a really strong heroine's journey with some light touches of romance.

Dr. Alison McAdams was on her way to having it all.  She and her fiance, Andrew, are both dentists, have fixed up a great house in Scottsdale, Arizona, and the plan is that they'll one day take over Andrew's fathers' practice.  Then one day, while Alison is out buying ice cream, Andrew commits suicide.  Alison finds him hanging in their foyer.  Six months before their wedding.  Six months later, her beloved mother is also gone.  It's now been over a year and she's grieving, angry and stuck.  She's going through the motions when she gets a call from her father, a man she's always had a somewhat distant relationship with.  Now living in a retirement community he has fallen and broken his wrist.  Andrew's father, whom she works for, tells her she must go to Napa, California to see her father.  She also needs some time.  Take several weeks off.

Once in Napa Alison tries to connect with her father, is staying in her parents' house he hasn't bothered to sell yet, and meets other residents at her father's retirement community.  She soon enters the orbit of Edie, a 94-year-old woman who was living and working in Germany during World War II.  She also meets Edie's handsome, and very eligible, great-nephew, Craig - who owns a winery with his brother.

This story alternates back and forth between Alison's and Edie's points-of-view and mostly takes place in present day.  Any references to the past are done entirely through Edie's surviving diaries, which come into heavier focus in the second half of the book.  It's the story of two women, of different generations, of different backgrounds, who loved and survived tremendous loss.

Porter has a very light style, straight-forward and crisp, but this is an emotionally heavy book - made more so in light of recent current events (this book was published in 2015).  It's hard to not draw parallels.  This is one instance where it almost helps that the style is more tell than show.  I normally rail on this kind of thing in romance, but in women's fiction I find I'm more forgiving, and Porter writes the internal monologues of her main characters in almost a confessional kind of style.  It's hard to not get sucked into it.

There is a small wisp of romance here, but it's weaved through tragedy (Edie's story especially).  Alison is, by far, in a better place at the end of the book and the author ends everything on an upbeat note, even if it doesn't have a fully fleshed out happy-ever-after that I suspect romance readers will miss (there's definite hints though that Alison and Craig are on their way to being a couple).  I've read quite a few World War II-related historical novels of late, and while that aspect of this story didn't have the same depth as The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah or Playing with Fire by Tess Gerritsen, I think Porter made the sound decision in going the diary route here, otherwise the grief in this book would have been all consuming.  Edie's story in "real time" juxtaposed with the suicide of Alison's Andrew...well, I'd probably have taken to my bed for a couple of days to recover.

This was a really strong heroine's journey, with a light touch of romance, and really picture perfect as far as what I'm looking for when I pick up women's fiction.  It's a slower story, emotionally gutting in parts, and one of those books where not a lot "happens" - but I got so invested in the characters, the intertwining journeys of Alison and Edie.  It was another one of those Don't Bother Me Unless Something Is On Fire books.  I was too busy inhaling every word.

Final Grade = B


willaful said...

I'm all about the good storytelling right now. Please, just suck me in!

Jazz Let said...

Oh yes please suck me in. Alas I am having trouble finding books that will, even fro previousy reliable authors, even on rereading books that have sucked me in previously.

Wendy said...

February was a good reading month for me - for the first time in a long while I really sank into the books I picked up. Either I finally found the "right books at the right time" or else I found a way to shut out other distractions for a change....