Monday, May 24, 2010

While I'm Falling

Laura Moriarty is an author who likes to explore the various elements in mother/daughter relationships - in her debut novel The Center of Everything, again in Rest of Her Life, and in her latest book, While I'm Falling. And while I think some of these books have been better than others for a variety of reasons, the mother/daughter relationship in each is fascinating.

While I'm Falling by Moriarty is a book I have been working on for a while. I loved Rest of Her Life and had such high hopes for While I'm Falling.

Because it took me so long to read it, I have had plenty of time to think about this book, love parts of it, want to change parts of it, and finally last night - after I had finished reading it- appreciate it a bit more.

The story begins with Natalie, the mother, being found in bed by her husband with the roofer who was working on their house. After twenty plus years of marriage, the two divorce. (Instantly I was sucked in to this story). The oldest daughter, Elise, is done with law school, married, living in California. And Veronica is in college - pre-med. Veronica's life starts to implode- she can't keep up with her classes, she cheats on her boyfriend, her job as a residence hall director on her dorm floor is in jeopardy because of the scant amount of effort she is able to give the job, and on one icy winter day she manages to wreck Jimmy Liff's car while housesitting for him. In addition to wrecking his car, she also has a party at his house that results in it being trashed (which is where Veronica gets drunk and cheats on her long-term boyfriend, Tim). Jimmy returns to find these problems and begins harassing Veronica - using intimidation as a way of getting something out of her.

Things aren't going well for Veronica at all, yet when she calls her mother, her mother is unable to help her. Natalie has managed to lose her apartment because she is keeping a dog, Bowzer, in a rental that doesn't allow animals. Things are so bad for Natalie that she moves in with Veronica in her dorm, despite the fact that that is against the dorm's policy.

There are a lot of really bad things that both Veronica and Natalie get thrown at them, and some -like the refusal to get rid of the dog - are a result of poor decision making. Yet, almost all of these things I felt were sort of trivial and hard for me to imagine a three hundred page book being written about. Each problem just made me wonder what else Moriarty could come up with to challenge her characters.

And yet, by the book's end, I really did like Veronica and Natalie and felt like Moriarty had created believable - if flawed- characters. Maybe their decision making skills are lacking, yet there are real people - not just characters- who are unable to make good decisions every single day.

The mother/daughter relationship between Veronica and Natalie changed a bit throughout this book. Veronica grew up and didn't necessarily expect her mother to fix everything, while Natalie had to let Veronica make decisions for herself, even if they weren't what she would have chosen. Much of this is true to life as daughters grow into women and become independent.

This may not be Moriarty's strongest book, but I do enjoy her writing and will look for anything new that she has coming out in the future.

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