Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Mercy of Thin Air by Ronlyn Domingue

The title is what drew me to this book. The cover featured the hazy image of the back of a young woman. The saying goes "don't judge a book by its cover" but in truth, a nice cover and an enticing title does quite a bit to make a book stand out among the many books on display at the bookstore.

In this case, the description of the story sounded as intriguing as the cover. Set in New Orleans, a woman, dead 70 years, exists in a realm of "in-between", seeks information about the man she once loved, while observing a newlywed couple struggle with the trials of the living.

I was hoping for something beautiful and tragic and dark. And it was, to some extent. But also, the story possessed a strong sense of practicality that I thought detracted a bit from the intensity it might have had otherwise. This wasn't quite the story of ghosts and lost lovers mired in voodoo that I'd hoped it would be. I liked this book, but I wanted to love this book.

There almost seemed to be too many storylines running through this book. We learn bits and pieces of different people's lives, past and present, enough to make me curious and interested, but not enough to make me care or connect to the people. It felt like maybe too much was attempted. I didn't feel like enough attention was paid to the ways in which the stories connected. The connection is somewhat surprising, but it felt rushed in the end. I felt like I didn't learn enough to fully understand what had happened or more so to really feel the effects of what happened. I had questions at the end -- and if anyone else has read this book or does read this book and would like to discuss, get in touch with me. Seriously.

I'd summarize this book as being about people who met the love of their lives -- their soul mate, the person who set them on fire, the one -- then lost that person. The story lies in how each person manages to move forward, knowing they will never feel love like that again, and in each instance settling for someone comfortable and safe. A practical love. The stories are presented in a way that assumes that this is what a person is supposed to do -- settle for someone you know you can never love as much as the person you lost. This idea bothered me immensely, because while I understand that this is the most logical choice, a person cannot build a life with a ghost, I also believe that in some situations a person would be better off alone with their memories than sharing their life with someone they don't passionately love. Why should Amy settle for Scott? Nothing about his character makes me think he was worthy of her love.

In life, we're forced to live in a logical and practical manner, but in my fiction, I want the characters to find a way to surpass those boundaries and refuse to settle.

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