Hello again, readers! Click here for the third review that goes right in line with The Write Edge Year-long Writing Workshop. This time we look at Setting by Jack M. Bickham. Enjoy, readers!
By Ekta R. Garg
Rated: Borrow it
A man helps a friend who begs for a favor and spends the day thinking about life and love. When he finds himself attracted to the bride at the wedding where he’s pinch-hitting as a groomsman, the man realizes the right formula for love depends on the correct mix of ingredients. New author Alex Clermont brings readers this story in his short story, “Missing Rib.”
Andrew McCarthy recently broke up with his girlfriend and feels miserable. So he does what any guy does: he puts up a front while he spends all his time moping in his apartment. He thinks the front has worked until his friend, Donald, calls his bluff and then asks for his help. Donald’s cousin is getting married within a matter of hours, and one of the groomsman has done something monumentally stupid that has landed him jail. Because Andrew and the wayward groomsman wear the same size tux, Donald says, would Andrew mind much standing up for the groom?
Even though watching two people commit to a lifetime of eternal bliss sounds as exciting as a root canal to Andrew, he knows he can’t leave Donald hanging. Donald has always stood by Andrew, and it’s time to return the gesture of friendship. Plus, Andrew has always enjoyed spending time with Donald’s family, and this opportunity for a pick-me-up by engaging with them sounds too good to pass up. Despite the early-morning hour and his disturbed sleep, Andrew agrees to help.
The day unfolds in the general positive chaos surrounding a wedding, and slowly Andrew finds himself offering to lend a hand in a variety of situations. One of those errands involves acting as a chauffeur for the bride, and Andrew begins a friendly conversation with the young woman. As Andrew talks to her throughout the day, he begins to understand that sometimes the circumstances don’t have to be perfect in order to find “the one.”
Author Alex Clermont zips through his story without letting the action sag. At the same time, he manages to balance real-world emotions with the demands of fiction. Andrew finds time during the day to maintain a pleasant composure for the benefit of the wedding guests and also reflect on his own life, noting the irony between his current dating situation and the reason for which Donald needs his help. Clermont presents the story with deft and avoids a melodramatic ending.
The one drawback to “Missing Rib” comes in the form of the commitment made in its marketing materials, ironically enough. Clermont promises a “day…filled with events, both tragic and funny.” While readers may smile at certain points of the pleasant story nothing in it evokes an audible laugh, and certainly nothing in the entire tale rises to the label of “tragic.” Realization of life truths? Yes. Tragic? Most definitely not.
Regardless, Clermont’s story will provide readers with a certain amount of amusement in exchange for less than an hour’s worth of their time. This reviewer recommends “Missing Rib” for that element, if nothing else.
By Ekta R. Garg
May 15, 2013
Rating: Bookmark it!
A young woman on the verge of a new life discovers that the one she has lived thus far was based on a lie. When she decides to try to find out the truth about her childhood, she realizes she might just end up losing her future too. But no matter what happens, she knows she has to forge ahead if she wants to have any semblance of life at all. Celebrated author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni shares this story in her latest novel, Oleander Girl, published this March.
Korobi Roy lives with her maternal grandparents. Although Korobi never knew her parents she lives in a home full of love; her grandfather in particular dotes on her. But even with all the love and affection showered on Korobi by both her grandparents, she can’t help wondering about her mother and father. As her own relationship becomes more serious, Korobi feels an intense longing to know more about them.
When Korobi’s grandfather suffers from a fatal heart attack, she discovers new information about her parents. Knowing that her mother loved her father deeply—owing to a fragment of a love letter she finds—Korobi decides she has to find out the truth about her identity. Can she experience a love like that?
Despite her fiance’s initial resistance (with deep roots in his own insecurity,) he reluctantly lets her go on her quest. Rajat, Korobi’s fiancé, secretly hopes Korobi will eventually get bored and come home. He has his own battles to fight, and he doesn’t know if he can win them without her by his side. Rajat also worries that without Korobi, he may not live up to the idealistic portrait she has of them in her mind. Korobi follows a circuitous path, and when she learns the truth about herself she comes to a crucial juncture. Will the future she desperately wants and the past she seeks end up destroying one another?
Acclaimed author Divakaruni knows how to balance the delicacy of troubled relationships with the challenges life throws at people. Her prose will draw readers into the story one small step at a time, all the while leading them through the plot with words that touch the heart and resonate with familiarity at the same time:
“I know so little about my mother, only that she died eighteen years ago, giving birth to me—a few months after my father, an ambitious law student, had passed away in a car accident. Perhaps she died of a broken heart. I never knew for sure because no one would speak to me of them.”
Divakaruni relays Korobi’s sections in first person, while all the other characters express themselves in third person. She transitions effortlessly from one to the other without jarring the reader out of the story. The climax will leave readers wondering why they didn’t see it coming and also appreciate Divakaruni’s ability to keep her secret for so long.
While Oleander Girl may have its roots in a different culture, almost anyone can feel some camaraderie with the longing to make sense of one’s world when everything suddenly changes. I highly recommend Oleander Girl for anyone who enjoys a compelling book about family and identity.