Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Review: More Than Words Can Say by Robert Barclay

My family is lucky enough to have a summer cottage that I have been spending time at every summer for my entire 40 years. It is a place deeply ingrained in my soul. It is my la querencia (roughly translated as the place of my heart). I could no more contemplate not going up there as I could fly to the moon. So when I read the premise of More Than Words Can Say, I was immediately captured. And I so wish that it had lived up to my expectations, offering me the same warm and wonderful feelings that being at the cottage always evokes in me. Instead it fell short.

Opening immediately following the death of Brooke Bartlett, her granddaughter Chelsea discovers, somewhat to her surprise, that she has inherited the family cottage, the one that her grandmother closed in 1942 and never re-opened, about which she was unwilling to speak, but which she paid to maintain ever since she left it so abruptly and without explanation. Chelsea's first reaction is to sell it sight unseen but when a letter from her grandmother tells her of the existence and location of a hidden journal, she opts to go to the cottage and look for answers to the mystery of why Brooke never again returned to Lake Evergreen.

Upon her arrival, she falls in love with the lake and the cottage, changing a short stay into a full summer in the Adirondacks. It doesn't hurt that her next door neighbor is a handsome, single doctor who is clearly exactly the sort of man for whom Chelsea has been looking unsuccessfully back home in Syracuse's social elite. She finds her grandmother's journal and together with Dr. Brandon Yale, she slowly reads through the pages, learning the secrets of that summer so long ago. As she reads of her grandmother's life, she starts to fall for Brandon, who has his own past demons to face.

The narrative flips back and forth from Chelsea and Brandon's growing relationship to the journal and the growing conundrum faced by Brooke. Each journal entry tails off into scenes from that summer of 1942, giving far more detail than the journal itself ostensibly would. The intertwining plotlines work together but their coincidences can be too numerous to be believable. The revelation of Brooke's secret is anti-climatic and the grief it seems to cause Chelsea is completely out of proportion to the secret itself. The fact that the secret is predictable and that both plots were telegraphed within pages of chief characters' introduction fed into this reaction.

The characterization of Chelsea and Brandon, Chelsea's mother and father, Brooke, Gregory, and all of the townspeople can't help rescue the plot from its failings either, as they are almost all one-dimensional and rather cliched. Dialogue between any of the characters is stilted and unbelievable. And the fact that Chelsea and Brandon feel the need to reiterate in only marginally different language what the journal has just clearly laid out for the reader caused this reader to become irrationally annoyed with these fictional characters. This isn't the only instance of clunky writing either. Little is done in the book without a qualifying adverb, leading to an overabundance of words ending in "ly" which only serve to point out the poor choice of verb they are so necessary to modify. And on a smaller scale, there are portions of the book, especially including those centered around the 1941 Chris Craft (one of which my grandfather owned when I was younger), that are not well researched or realistic.

As much as I wanted to like this book, I just didn't. Overall, it was too melodramatic, too predictable. If the plot had been more engaging or the ending more momentous, I might have been able to overlook the problems with the writing but in this case, I wasn't drawn into the story enough to look past the other stumbling blocks.

For more information about Robert Barclay and the book visit his publisher webpage. Follow the rest of the blog tour or look at the amazon reviews for dissenting opinions and a few who agree with me too.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.


  1. I felt exactly the same way reading this book! It needed better editing and I wasn't pulled into the story at all.

  2. Thanks so much for your review. I was beginning to feel a little lonely. Spot on....

  3. I'm sorry this one didn't turn out to be a favorite for you, but thanks for being a part of the tour. Happy New Year!


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