Song of Renewal
By Emily Sue Harvey
Published by The Story Plant
Liza and Garrison have a perfect life. He’s a pretentious artist and she’s a former dancer who doesn’t realize a world exists outside of her mansion with her own private studio. Together, they have a 16 year old daughter who is head over heels in love with Troy, the boy next door. One rainy night, a tragic car accident claims Troy’s life and nearly takes Angel’s.
The next two-hundred and thirty-odd pages deals with her parents’ descent into an alternating self-centric spiral of rejection, deflection, and completely predictable, boring realizations about their uninspiring lives.
The secondary characters were far more interesting and had absolute miles more interesting lives and histories than the main characters of this book. I wanted more of Charlcy and Raymond than I did of what’s-her-name and what’s-his-face. It was only when Harvey was writing about those two did I want to keep on reading.
Liza and Garrison were boring. They had no personalities, really, and I couldn’t get involved in their lives. The way the author writes leaves such a huge distance between the reader and the characters. Lots of ‘telling,’ but not much of letting the reader experience the heartwrenching emotions themselves. We’re told Liza is sad, but then we get launched into a prosaic, near poetic flashback of picnics or dance sequences. I really had trouble connecting with this couple. Nothing about their frequent vows of unconditional love for one another or their daughter endeared me to them.
Liza takes a wild hair and decides to be independent, after Garrison goes all emo and hipster on her and declares he’s sleeping in another room. He’s mad, we get that, but both of them get the wistful, moody, melodramatic treatment that seems much more suited for a soap opera.
The book is full of missed opportunities to really pack an impact. The author pulls her punches, rather than allowing her readers to be big girls and deal with real emotion. Harvey is a good author, even though her characters seemed rather desperate to get us readers to notice the settings through dialogue that was unnaturally highly attentive to exterior details, and she could have easily pulled readers from skimming the wordy exposition and introspection into full-on emotional involvement.
Missed opportunity #1: Garrison and Gwen. If he’d been tempted/contemplating or even if Gwen was an aggressor regarding a real or threatened affair it would have brought a whole new level of emotion to the book.
#2 Angel’s death. You know immediately you won’t have to invest anything emotionally in the book. Angel’s going to live, no lasting damage, and Liza and Garrison are going to live happily ever after. Predictable. Boring. If Angel had passed on, that would have brought her parents to life.
#3 the whole organ donor thing. See #2. Donating hr organs after her death would have added new layers to the emotion pie. Sorrow and grief, but joy and love because her death brought new life.
If you life safe, tame books that don’t push any boundaries and leave you exactly as you were before, this is a good book. There were just so many missed chances to snatch at heartstrings, both good and sad, that I felt so disappointed by the time I was done with the book.