Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Review: Precious and Fragile Things by Megan Hart
Megan Hart is one of those authors who gravitates toward the hard-core edge of human experience and she is not afraid to make those issues and situations the context of her novels. There are quite a few kidnapping novels and stories about the Stockholm Syndrome, but Ms Hart has not necessarily written a story that replicates those. As a testimony of her creativity she has crafted a story that is significantly different.
What actually happens when a young mother, frazzled and tired, truly weary of being the work-horse of her family, overwhelmed with laundry and crying kids and vet visits and husbands who can pick up and take a business trip without creating any ripple in the family life while any time away for her is a major undertaking. Gillian Solomon, or Gilly as she is called in this story, is a woman who has always wanted a family of her own, loves her husband dearly and deeply, yet has this insane desire to run away--to be free of all the hands that pull at her, free to finish tasks that forever go undone, free to just be. On a fateful day in January she stops at her bank's ATM, and in just a few moments her life changes forever. As she is returning to her car she finds that a carjacker has slipped into the passenger side, is holding a lethal knife to her throat and ordering her to just drive. Nothing she offers makes any impression. He won't even stop to let her children out of the back seat. Somehow she manages a quick stop and drops them off at an Amish home, knowing that they will be cared for. Even when they stop for gas she doesn't run. There is a part of her that doesn't want to go back.
For the next three months Gilly and Todd are holed up in his uncle's mountain cabin in Pennsylvania, totally and completely snowed in with drifts up to the roof. He has taken some of his inheritance money and fully stocked the cabin with food. There is sufficient wood and propane. Even when Gilly wrecks the car trying to escape they know that they will not freeze or starve. In a moment of weakness Gilly tries to kill herself and contracts pneumonia for her trouble--a terrible illness that Todd nurses her through. Yet there is always this tension. At first she begs to be let go. He can't do that--he knows she will tell them who he is and where he is--he just can't go back to prison. He is not unkind; he never attempts to assault her; he forces her out of her depression; he is not an uncomfortable companion. He just won't let her go.
This story is one of those that the reader knows must end but how? It is like a huge boulder rolling down the mountainside, but the bottom of the canyon is hidden by thick mists. Where will it land and what will happen when it does? Gilly must deal with her own feelings about her husband and children, about the relationship her feelings now have to do with her growing-up experiences, dealing with dreams and nightmares and trying to find a way to get through one boring day after another. Todd is terribly troubled--he isn't really bad or stupid or uneducated. He has been traumatized in his early childhood by the loss of his parents and siblings; he has survived the foster care system but not without wounds and scars and with responses to life's situations that may be predictable but are still sad and uncomfortable. He had intended to kill himself at the cabin. He never intended to have Gilly there. He makes some surprising discoveries about himself and his family that are very hurtful. But what is one more blow for this man? Yet as the weeks go by he is not sure he wants to end his life now. It becomes apparent that Todd is beginning to care deeply for Gilly, and even when she rejects his tepid romantic advances, he works through his anger and hurt without hurting her. He is not a really bad man. But where does this all leave them?
This is a wonderful novel and once again displays Ms Hart's skill as an author and her expertise in crafting a story many writers would never attempt. This is not beauty and life, it is not love, hearts and flowers. It is sad and hurtful and raw and gutsy. But there are moments of gentleness and caring, demonstrations that Gilly's orientation in her traditions and her depth as a mother and caring person bring some peace and understanding to this troubled man. It is not an easy book to read, but I have to admit I couldn't put it down--read it all, word for word, in one sitting. I felt like I was falling down an emotional well and when I reached the end, I was surprised while not being surprised. It's almost like waiting for the other shoe to drop and when it does, it is still a surprise. There is a sense of the inevitable but the reader has no clue how it will all end.
So if you are a Megan Hart fan, you will like this book. It is not one of her erotic novels--no sex except for Gilly's memories of her times with her husband--but this is an incredibly in-depth novel and a very good read. I give this book a rating of 4.75 out of 5.