Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Review: The Amendment by Anne Leigh Parrish

When I read Anne Leigh Parrish's first book, a collection of linked short stories called Our Love Could Light the World, I got to meet the messy and dysfunctional Dugan clan. In her new novel, The Amendment, mother Lavinia Dugan, now Lavinia Starkhurst and married to second husband Chip, has a whole different life. She's now in her 50s and her children are adults. She is more than comfortable financially. And she and her husband have an easy, generally considerate, if not passionate and love-filled, marriage. When Chip is struck by lightning on the golf course and dies, Lavinia's whole existence is thrown for a loop. She's confused by her grief and by the expectations others have for her in the wake of Chip's death. She feels like she needs to take a physical trip to process and make sense of everything so she sets off alone on a road trip, heading West without any particular plan, and along the way, ends up meeting strangers, down and out, struggling, and sometimes eccentric, whose lives she touches and who, in turn, touch her life.

Lavinia is a flawed and entirely human character. She can be judgmental and unkind, surprising given her own acknowledged background, but she can also be giving and forgiving, especially with her children, several of whom certainly struggle with navigating adulthood. While she seems content with who she is or thinks she is and initially uninterested in changing, she quickly realizes she doesn't really know who the real Lavinia is outside of the role she took on as Chip's wife.  She'll have to change to find herself at her core.  She is funny and sarcastic and grieving the loss of her husband in a way only she understands. But she is also doing the hard work of learning who she is, who she wants to be, and how she wants the rest of her life to proceed. In the process, this strong, resilient woman opens her heart a sliver at a time. Her insights into herself are realistic and her growth as a person is not overdone; change is incremental. The writing is very accessible and the pacing is consistent and appropriate. There is a nice balance of humor and pathos, with the humor dominating and keeping the mood of the novel, focused as it is on a new widow, from becoming overwhelmingly sad. Lavinia sometimes seems to treading water both before and during the trip, as people do, but there is never any doubt that this outspoken, determined woman will in fact find the road she needs to travel into the next phase of her life. If you like road trip novels, novels where women find their future, or novels of emotional resilience peppered with humor, this is the novel for you.

For more information about Anne Leigh Parrish and the book, check out her webpage, like her page on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter or Instagram. Check out the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book. You can also check out my review of Parrish's previous short story collection, Our Love Could Light the World, the linked story collection with Lavinia Dugan Starkhurt in it, or of another of her short story collections, By the Wayside, both of which I liked very much.

Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours and Unsolicited Press for sending me a copy of the book for review.

1 comment:

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