A few months ago, I reviewed The Tumbling Turner Sisters, author Juliette Fay’s most recent novel. That particular novel may well end up being one of my favorite reads of 2017 (though it was written in 2016). What’s more, following my post, I got a very nice email from the author thanking me for my review. Now, my mom would say that was just good manners, no?
Because I enjoyed that book so much, I decided to give another of her novels a try, and started with her debut, Shelter Me, written back in 2008. First novels can be risky business. The characters can be flat. The story is often somewhat predictable while the style can be unpredictable.
Shelter Me hooked me with the storyline, and kept me with the realistic characters and behaviors. I really liked the novel.
Young mother Janie is still reeling from the unexpected death of her much-loved husband, who was killed in a motorcycle accident. Feeling totally unprepared to be a single mother to her young kindergarten-aged son and toddler daughter, and unable to fully accept what has happened, she lives a life full of anger, confusion, and loneliness.
But suddenly a few months after her husband’s death, a stranger shows up at her door holding a piece of paper that turns out to be a contract for him to build a front porch on to their house. Her husband had made the arrangements, planning to surprise her with the beautiful addition to their home.
After getting over the surprise, Janie gives Tug permission to go ahead with her husband’s wishes.
Now, stop right there. Isn’t that a sweet premise for a book plot? There is just something so delightful as the idea of a husband surprising his wife with a front porch. I think I would have loved this novel even if that was the only thing good about it.
But it wasn’t. Janie’s sadness, often displayed as anger, is so realistic that I could practically feel her rage around me. The supporting cast – an aunt who could be annoying if she just didn’t love her niece so darn much, a neighbor who simply won’t let Janie push her away, and Tug, who is using the front porch to hide his own issues – are believable and likeable.
There was a story line relating to the parish priest who tried his best to provide Janie comfort that seemed unnecessary and simply odd, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book.