Reviewed by L.D.Y.
Mass market, 374 pages, 2009
Reason for Reading: Looking for a light read to check out during my exam week…we’ll see how choosing a novel over textbooks pans out in a few weeks.
Synopsis: Adele Martin didn’t have a happy childhood, but at least she always had the thought of New York City to sustain her – it was going to be the place she would one day escape to in pursuit of a better life. But now that she’s 31, she finds herself needing to start over after a disastrous turn in NYC, and the only place she can (afford to) do it is at the cottage she inherited from her mother in rural Pennsylvania. Haunted by the memories of the mother that made her life a misery until she fled at 17, Adele confronts her past while looking to the future – which just got more promising thanks to the sexy-but-aloof neighbour she’s just acquired…
Why you should read this book: This was a pleasant surprise – while I read a lot of ‘chick lit,’ I don’t read a lot of what I would consider ‘romance.’ Probably because most of what I read when I was younger was just a woman obsessively fixated on a dangerously sexy-but-distant man who would turn out to be looking for marriage. Dale, however, presents a much more multifaceted story – a mother with a hidden past that Adele fears even as she seeks to uncover it; an older couple that lives down the road that has their own secrets (not to mention a teenage granddaughter navigating all sorts of adolescent troubles); a love interest that’s actually wishing our heroine can open up emotionally before he abandons all hope; and a quest for identity: is Adele truly a big city girl, or is she just running away from her past? There is some edge to this romance, but the characters will leave you feeling cozy and right at home. Simple Wishes is a feel-good story that will have you cheering for the characters without having to worry about it getting overly sentimental.
Why you should avoid this book: I think the reason I did read romance novels when I was younger was for the dirty bits. Not too much of that here if that’s what you’re looking for – it’s more of a contemporary novel where there happens to be romance than a romance novel where there happens to be a story, if that makes sense.
For her twelfth birthday, a classmate gave Adele a book of New York City in photographs. The pages were thick and glossy. The binding creaked in her hands. She said thank you to her friend, and at recess, while the other students hung out in clusters near the chain-link fences of the school yard, she sat alone against the brick of the science building, where no one could see.
‘You must get married,’ Beatrice said, her voice full of pity. ‘Be happier.’
‘I don’t think so,’ she said.
‘You like the cottage?’
‘You like the city more?’
Adele pressed her lips together. The first time she snuck off to New York with a girlfriend, she stood on a corner near Rockefeller Center and was blown away by everything: the bigness, the drama, the energy that trembled in the air as if life was on the verge of another big bang or a spontaneous combustion.
Now she’d been ravaged by the city. And maybe it had been building to that all along – as if she’d set herself up for failure.
Adele smiled. She picked up the pumpkin in two hands but couldn’t tell what had been carved in it. She scrounged up a tea light in the cottage, dropped it in the bottom, and stepped back.
Jay had etched and shaded, more so than carved, the figure of a woman standing on a cluster of rocks, gazing at something in the distance. She wore a long skirt that caught a bit of the breeze, echoing the trailing ribbon of her hair. She could imagine Jay’s hands, working patiently and sure over the image, coaxing it to life from light and shadow. It was sentimental, but excellently done. Adele had never seen anything like it.
Also recommended: Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani; Girl’s Night by Stef Ann Holm; Nobody’s Fool by Richard Russo.
Also by this author: Seeds of Affection.
Author’s website: lisadalebooks.com
Fun tidbit: Check out Dale’s blog, Book Anatomy 101, as well as her personal website.
Would I read more by this author? I’ll look for more books by Dale when I want another light, cozy read.
© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2009