Thursday, May 15, 2014

Pressed Pennies: A Novel by Steven Manchester

Pressed Pennies: A Novel.  Steven Manchester. The Story Plant. May 2014. 355 pp.  ISBN#: 9781611881356.

One morning Rick wakes up and realizes just how miserable he really is. He’s got everything but nothing, good job, plenty of money, the best home and summer home, and a wife who doesn’t have the time of day for him.  Her only comment when he tries to discuss their growing separation is to tell him to quit moaning and grow up, facing the reality that hard work is the foundation of their grand lifestyle.  That just about finishes it for Rick who decides to divorce his wife; but that even reinforces his emptiness and the shallowness of his connection to those outside of his lavish, opulent circle.  Yes it seems change needs to happen and soon!

Abby has also gotten divorced from her ever-drinking husband but the pain of his presence or lack of presence is gradually tearing their daughter Paige apart.  Thank goodness that Abby and Paige, however, have a strong bond that hopefully nothing can break apart.  For Paige is hurting in ways that Abby can only heal with her maternally deep, deep love. 

Abby moves and meets Rick and the rest of the story is about their memories, their increasing love for each other, and a conflict they never imagined could happen.  Does the future hold a life together or are they forever doomed to loneliness and lack of focus with the rest of humanity. 

Steven Manchester has written another best seller – it’s got just the right amount of passion and romance – lovely and awesome!  But it’s also got just the right amount of very real conflict that is a huge obstacle to the dreams and desires of Rick and Abby, without being over the top or excessively melodramatic.  It’s a story that could happen and probably does in any small town or big city home and that makes this novel all the more tender and special.  You continue to dazzle readers with your sensitive and graceful writing – don’t stop, Steven Manchester!!!! Gutsy and beautiful novel!!!

Covet: A Novel by Tracey Garvis Graves

Covet: A Novel.  Tracey Garvis Graves. Plume: Penguin Group (USA). April 2014. 336 pp. pbk. ISBN #: 9780142181126.

Chris and Claire Canton’s marriage is on the rocks.  Chris has just gone back to work after being laid off from his former job for a year; he’s a workaholic who now has to be away four days and nights a week.  Still depressed because of the constant stress of being unemployed and now having a very stressful job that asks more and more of him, he has just about totally turned off to Claire.  Claire, on the other hand, has gone beyond understanding Chris’s worst fears and now feels totally alone, raising her children by herself most of the time and receiving zilch attention from her totally preoccupied spouse.

Add to that some neighbors with their own problems of excessive drinking and more and the reader begins to wonder if everyone’s life is so screwed up.  But Claire is about to enter a dangerous zone that begins being stopped by a police officer, Daniel, for a back light that’s out and enters into a new relationship phase that Claire calls “just good friends.”  In our current social world where half of all marriages dissolve, one wonders where Chris and Claire are headed – or not!

How does one decide when it’s better to keep fighting for a love gone awry or let go and move on to other pastures?  Are there depths or degrees of love that determine how one responds to that question? Or perhaps it’s the kids that motivate one’s response to that question?  For Claire and Chris, their children are initially oblivious but then seem to fine-tune to the negative vibes rippling through their parents’ brief encounters. 

How about when one fights for a marriage and the unintended discussions turn into angry eruptions?  And what about how the economy resounds in families’ lives so that every person is expected to deliver higher and higher quotas of product delivery that is really the equivalent of two or three people working?  There are other questions about the “roles” of husband and wife in contributing to the family’s bank account through work and more.

Covet: A Novel  initially reads like a stereotypical story of a declining marriage and yet one might want to read it with some of these relevant questions in mind that almost every American couple will be asking at one time or another because this novel portrays the reality of the American economy now!  For that reason, this is a novel deserving to be read and pondered by many, many readers!