Monday, April 6, 2009

Review: The Laws of Harmony by Judith Ryan Hendricks

Sunny Cooper lives in Albuquerque with her boyfriend, a long way from Armonia, the commune where she grew up. She can tell that things aren't going well between she and Michael and she wants to talk to him but he is killed in a car accident before she can confront him. In the wake of this accident, her life starts to unravel and she takes off to start over again, heading all the way to the small town of Harmony on San Miguel Island, off the coast of Washington. Painstakingly building her life over again and slowly letting other people into her life, Sunny comes to be a part of Harmony even as the past catches up to her and determines her future. Sunny's present storyline is interspersed with her childhood in the commune, leading up to the tragic day when her younger sister died. The weaving is well done as the reader never feels yanked one way or the other and is content to wait to get back to each story in due time.

Sunny is a prickly character but one whom the reader comes to care about and wish well. Her scars are earned and it is completely understandable that she is slow to warm up to people given her past history. The setting of the book, both in New Mexico and on the fictional Washington island, is incredibly well drawn and makes the reader feel as if s/he is there. The characters are realistic and almost all fully fleshed out (Sunny's initial landlady is a bit of a characature but she's one of few here). There is a massive twist in the plot that I didn't expect but it worked and showed how far Sunny had matured given the way she chose to deal with it. This is definitely a relationship story, between mother and daughter; between lovers; and between friends. And it was a satisfying one at that.

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