Friday, April 19, 2013

Digital Review: She's Come Undone

She was thirty years old, all but unemployed, holed up in a falling-down house she couldn't step out of, and the best thing she'd done with her life in years was to give the general contractor an unusually good blowjob.
As a general rule I don't read a lot of self-published work, but when I do it tends to be by authors who also have a backlist either with traditional print publishers or respected e-publishers.  To a certain extent, yes - I totally buy into the "gatekeeper" argument.  Even if I haven't read them before, the author is a "known commodity" and has enough experience with writing and publishing that I'm more confident that I'm not going to get total crap.

I'm sure some people like to wade through half garbled manifestos, but heck - if I wanted that I'd spend all my time reading my own blog.

Which is how I came to read Hurricane Lily by Rebecca Rogers Maher.  I liked the plot description of the novella, and the author included the tidbit of information that the story was edited.  By an actual real-life editor with like credentials and everything!  Sold!

The simplistic way to describe Lily Sawyer is that she's a neurotic poor little rich girl.  She's got anxiety issues, which has led her to hole up in her late mother's ramshackle cottage on Cape Cod.  She's convinced her father that the place needs fixing up, and given that he's the sort to throw money around to "fix" problems, and honestly if Lily is on the Cape she's out his hair, he writes the check.  She's got enough canned preserves and emergency supplies to survive a hurricane, now all she needs to do is get the house up to snuff.  And for that she hires Cliff Buckley.

Cliff is a poor little working class boy who went to Vassar on scholarship, so basically that means he feels it's his right to be angry all the time, play Working Class Hero, and sneer at rich people.  Never mind that he makes his living as a general contractor fixing houses on the Cape for, you guessed it, rich people.  He takes one look at Lily and immediately jumps to all sorts of conclusions.  She takes one look at him and wants to hide under her bed for the next ten years.

I really liked this story.  I probably shouldn't have because honestly the characters start out on a very rocky road.  Cliff is a sneering hypocrite and Lily is just.....not well mentally.  I mean, really - she's not well.  Heroines like this don't need romances - they need shrinks.  Several of them.  In Lily's case, probably a venerable army of them.  But a funny thing happens on the road to epilogue - the author shows and creates her characters, warts and all, and then actually has them transform before the reader's eyes.  Cliff eventually realizes he's being an ass.  Lily eventually realizes that she can't hide away from the world, refusing to leave a falling down house on Cape Cod.  And the best part is?  Neither of these characters are instantly cured by the Magic Penis or Mythical Hoo-Ha.  Yes, they're better people together, but they don't suddenly morph into Perfect Pod People at the finish line.  They're better.  They're working on a relationship together, and working on their respective baggage.

I really liked the style, voice, and tone of this story and I appreciated that the author gives readers complicated characters as opposed to "types."  Yes, it certainly would have been easy to have Lily be a cookie-cutter Poor Little Rich Girl With Daddy Issues - but she's more than that.  And yes, it would have been easy to have Cliff be the Studly Handyman With The Blue Collar Chip On His Shoulder - but he's more than that.  It's a good example of one of my favorite types of romances - the nontraditional kind.  Interesting, different characters with interesting different baggage.

Final Grade = B


Liz Mc2 said...

I just finished this. I thought it took on a bit much to resolve effectively in a novella, but like you I really appreciated characters who were not "types." I'm glad I read it; the exploration of anger and anxiety was interesting (and almost too timely this week to bear).

Tracy said...

This sounds good, Wendy. Thanks for the heads up.

Love the manifesto comment. 😀

azteclady said...

Dare I hope that the slump is truly and well over? Either way, now I'm tempted. Again.

Thank you!

Wendy said...

Liz: I had that reaction as well - but I appreciated that the author didn't try to do too much with the ending. There's no way a Happy, Happy Rainbow We're All Better Now ending was going to work here. (And yes, that anger/anxiety link was great! I loved that!)

Tracy: I'm very selective with self-pub. Too many front-line horror stories dealing with local kooks who have published The Great American Novel walking into the library. Yikes!

AL: It seems to be. A lot of my slump can be blamed on too many "C" reads in a row. Sometimes those are worse for me than the outright dud reads. Too much blah and I lose my mojo.....

Carmen said...

Wendy - this is my first visit to your blog. I love the way you write. And, as an unemployed librarian (in Australia) I feel I need an "easy read" like this one - about an "unemployed" lass I can relate to. However, unlike the central character, I don't have a Cape Cod bungalow to restore. So I've put my energies into my blog: 50 Shades of Unemployment.
Cheers, Carmen