Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The From-Aways by CJ Hauser

Leah and Quinn might seem like an unlikely pair - Leah a recently married New Yorker hoping to live the storied life her husband wooed her with and Quinn searching out her absent father in the wake of her mother's death - but the two "from-aways" soon become fast friends. Leah gave up her career as a journalist in the city to move to her husband's tiny hometown. Her sister-in-law, who holds a grudge as yet unknown to Leah, agrees to hire her on at the local paper where newcomer and former obit writer Quinn has recently been hired as well. As the tiny town of Menamon begins to feel like home to them both, they become united in an effort to preserve pieces of the local history under threat by rich newcomers. But their efforts put Leah in direct opposition of her husband, opening her eyes to the possibility that perhaps she doesn't know him as well as she'd thought.

It took some time for me to warm up to this story. From the first page, CJ Hauser had a very distinct style - quirky and a little snarky - that I quite enjoyed. I was charmed by the idea of the small town setting and the locals, all of whom were engaging and well thought out.

It was Leah and Quinn, however, that I had a hard time with. I didn't have any particular issue with either of them as individual characters, but together I found that they both sounded too similar. The chapters alternate between the two women as narrators and it was difficult for me to tell which one I was reading (barring the header at the beginning of each chapter and the circumstances singular to each of them). They simply sounded too much alike in my opinion.

Don't get me wrong, this wasn't a deal breaker by any means but it did mean something of a slow start for me. By the end of the story I was so completely wrapped up in the Menamon issue as well as Leah and Quinn's stories that I didn't care quite as much.

And the town of Menamon itself is a big draw. The issues that come into play are issues that a lot of small towns face - new vs old, expansion and industry, and the unfortunate trend of pricing out locals in their own hometown. The balance is a hard one to strike and you see the issue most clearly between Leah and her husband.

The seasons do change in Menamon but this felt like a summer book all the way through. And while it didn't leave me all that sympathetic to the plight of lobsters (I prefer crawfish, but I don't really feel sorry for them either) it did leave me with a craving for a seafront vacation and a boating weekend that will likely not be staunched any time soon.

Rating: 3.5/5

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