Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Review: All the News I Need by Joan Frank

What happens when introverts age? If they've lost the person in their life who keeps them tethered to other people, they may find themselves retreating from the world, worrying about their aloneness but not knowing how to change it or in actuality having more than a passing desire to do so. In Joan Frank's novel, All the News I Need, a meditation on aging, on connection and relationship, and on the way that life can always deliver surprise and change, two characters look back at their past lives, wallow in their presents, and finally take a chance on the future.

Fran is a widow in her fifties. Painfully forthright and sometimes a little crass, Fran has maintained a friendship of sorts with her late husband Kirk's good friend Ollie. Ollie is a single gay man in his early sixties. He's a worrier, shy, introspective, and a little persnickety. The two of them are quite alone except for each other and as they approach aging, they vow to remain each other's human connection through their carefully laid out Rules for Aging. These two lonely people are set in their ways, shut off from the richness of life, plodding towards the quiet unremarked end until Fran decides that they should travel to Paris together, jolting both of them out of their routines. Easy travel partners they are not though, exploring Paris by revisiting the places Fran and Kirk once knew, each irritated and bothered by the other in ways that only travel can expose so clearly. For both Fran and Ollie, there is a deep sadness in the past, of those they loved and lost, and in the loss of the potential for what was.

The novel is very much a character driven one focused on two solitary people who spend much of the book alone together. Chapters alternate in perspective between Fran's and Ollie's musings on their own situation, the minor (and major) annoyances of the other person, and on their own grief and loss. The writing, especially in the beginning is almost staccato in style. This clipped, fragmentary style can contrast a little oddly with the long, descriptive passages fleshing out Ollie and Fran's characters but most often it makes the story feel very present. Fran and Ollie don't start out as the most likeable characters and their relationship, despite its long term, often feels dutiful, an obligation to their shared memory of Kirk. And the denouement of their Paris trip is not unexpected. But Frank does a wonderful thing for the reader, following Fran and Ollie into promise and happiness, moving them past the small, disheartening stagnation of the beginning of the novel. Slow to get into, the payoff in the end makes this a worthwhile read.

For more information about Joan Frank and the book, check out her author website. Also, check out the book's Good Reads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

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

1 comment:

  1. So many readers have such amazing things to say about the ending of this book - I have to read it to see what all their excitement is really about!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.


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