Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Young Widow's Club by Alexandra Coutts

Young Widow's Club by Alexandra Coutts
Release Date - November 10, 2015
Publisher Website - Raincoast/Macmillan
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 304 pages
My Rating - 3/5
**received for honest review from the publisher**

**mild spoilers**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
First came love, then came marriage, and then...

For seventeen-year-old Tam, running off to marry her musician boyfriend is the ideal escape from her claustrophobic high-school life on the island, and the ultimate rebellion against her father and stepmother. But when Tam becomes a widow just weeks later, the shell-shocked teen is forced to find her way forward by going back to the life she thought she’d moved beyond—even as her struggle to deal with her grief is forcing her to reinvent herself and reach out to others in ways she never imagined.
This unique sounding premise immediately caught my eye. It made it so I was intrigued enough to try this second novel from Alexandra Coutts. This ended up being a wonderfully developed look at grief, but one that left me feeling disconnected from the characters, and the story itself.

There were some wonderful parts to this story. The depiction of grief is incredibly nuanced and raw. The hardest part of grief, I feel, is that the world doesn't stop. It doesn't mourn with you. This novel captures that aspect perfectly. The idea that you ever fully heal is also one that feels inauthentic. This novel embraces that it never goes away. It lessens but never truly leaves you. It's honest in it's depiction that some days are good, and others that are crippling. If grief were like water the symbolism this novel offers is that some days it pulls you under, and others you manage to tread. Each day continues this way until the ones where you are treading outnumber the ones where you're drowning. This novel embraces all those usual emotions that people say you experience with grief - anger, guilt, sadness, and contrasts them with those moments where happiness, and joy sneak in. It looks at the entire notion of moving on and how complicated those feelings can be.

Sadly, as good as this depiction of learning to live with grief was the connection to the story never really resonated for me. I never felt the love story between Tam and Noah. Perhaps more flashbacks to their relationship would have helped. There is another loss Tam is struggling with, that of her mother years prior, that kind of takes over the story. You see that she never fully dealt with that loss, and that Noah's death brings it all back to the surface. You see that she harbours anger that her father has remarried, and resents her step-mother. This element seemed to overpower what was supposed to be the central focus of the story, but neither were fleshed out enough for it to resonate deeply. It felt like I knew to be sad about what Tam had experienced because I was told to, not because I reached those emotions on my own.

The other element that I didn't connect with was the new romance Tam find herself in. The guy in question is quite a bit older, and their dynamic felt unbalanced. The illusion was that Tam had grown up quickly due to her experiences with getting married so young, and losing Noah shortly after. However, this guy is someone who also lost a spouse, and feels like an adult, whereas Tam still came across as the child she is. This may have worked better with an early 20's main character. A college girl who lost her highschool sweetheart turned college husband. The messy, conflicted aspect of falling for someone else is handled well, and the relationship is not an easy one, but even those positives could not pull me into their story.

While I enjoyed this more than Tumble and Fall, it still wasn't the book for me. I am sure plenty will enjoy this story, and there are elements that stand out beautifully, the novel just never came together for me the way I had hoped. This is a story of grief, and while that aspect was done well, I never really felt the loss that the character (or the reader) were grieving for.

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