Tuesday, January 1, 2019

True Places, by Sonja Yoerg

Lake Union Publishing, ISBN 9781503904781, January 2019

Suzanne Blakemore lives an organized, busy life, with a devoted, successful husband, and two bright teenagers, a son and a daughter. She also has a round of volunteer activities that keep her far too busy to think about anything that may be lacking in her life, and only rarely leaves her alone long enough for a panic attack.

Then one day, feeling the demands of her life closing in, she drives off down a largely deserted highway, exactly the sort of thing she should avoid, and sees a young girl crouched by the side of the road. Suzanne stops, and speaks to her--and then coaxes the seriously ailing, underweight Iris into her car and takes her to the hospital.

Pretty much no one is happy with her about this, especially when she does not immediately lose interest in Iris after dropping her at the hospital. Her daughter, Brinn, thinks Iris is an excuse to ignore her. Son Reid also thinks Iris is a Project taken on to avoid other things, though he has a slightly better sense that it may be herself Suzanne is trying to ignore. Suzanne's mother Tinsley is appalled she's involving herself with a homeless person who can only reflect badly on their social standing. Husband Whit is at least somewhat concerned about what Suzanne wants, but really agrees with everyone else that it would be better to take no further interest. Besides, he's pursuing a big business deal...

Iris is sixteen, and has been on her own since her mother died. Once they were a happy, intact family of four, living in a cabin in the woods, living off the land. Then, her father, and as we slowly come to realize, her brother Ash, vanished from their lives. She believes her father died. He must have, or he would have come back. She doesn't think about what happened to Ash. He lives in her head. Three years later, her mother dies in a fall into a cave. Iris is truly on her own, until Suzanne finds her.

When no family can be found for Iris, and Suzanne persuades Whit that they should become her foster family, a family she only barely keeps on track is poised to go completely off the rails. These are very real people, and allowing for generational differences, I went to high school with kids like Brinn and Reid. When Brinn acts on her resentment of Iris, it's only her established pattern of behavior being made visible enough that her father is finally forced to see it, and Suzanne can no longer avoid confronting behavior she doesn't know how to control. Reid's problems are more subtle, and more in his relationship with his father, who has long seen Brinn as perfect and Reid as a disappointment. Suzanne's own problems are present from the beginning, not at all Whit's doing, but in his genuine love for her he has perhaps not done what she needed.

And Iris, with no experience of the modern world, having been taught that modern society is corrupt and corrupting, nevertheless really can't go back to living alone in the woods. Yet for all her lack of any experience with the modern world, she knows an amazing amount about plants, and not just purely practical survival knowledge of them. There's more going on in her background than we know.

This is a complicated mixing of complicated, flawed people, most of whom are genuinely doing the best they can, trying to find their way in a world that almost intentionally keeps them too busy to think about anything beyond the superficial. As always with Yoerg's books, there's an underlying grounding of decency and love binding people together. It makes the painful parts worth sticking around through. At the same time, there are no simple, pat answers to their complicated problems.

Highly recommended.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the author, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

No comments:

Post a Comment