Bibliophiliac is the space where one passionate, voracious reader reflects on books and the reading life. You will find reviews, analysis, links, and reflections on poetry and prose both in and out of the mainstream.

A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. Franz Kafka

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Book Review: A Watershed Year

A Watershed Year
Susan Schoenberger
paperback, 369 pages
a copy of this book was provided by the author through TLC Book Tours

Lucy McVie begins her watershed year two months after the death of her best friend Harlan. Lucy has devoted a year of her life to Harlan, staying by his side throughout his illness and eventual death, but she never found the courage to tell him that she loved him.

Now, as Lucy grieves the loss of her friend, she begins to recieve a series of e-mails from Harlan, e-mails he composed at the end of his life and arranged to have sent once a month for a year.

To be honest, I was afraid this novel would turn out to be a little contrived, like a Lifetime movie. Or maybe it would turn out to be one of those wish-fulfillment stories with a love triangle, and an ending that is telegraphed from chapter one.

Instead, A Watershed Year was genuinely moving, with a main character who is flawed but likeable. Lucy's watershed year is a movement toward happiness, but not the greeting card variety, nor the romance novel with a happy, if forced, ending.

At thirty-eight, Lucy has lost the real love of her life to cancer, and although there is a possible love interest on the horizon, the desire to be a mother has a new urgency for her. She decides to proceed with adoption, and soon finds herself on a plane to Russia. Even as she signs the paperwork and "greases some tires" with large sums of cash, Lucy suspects the adoption might not be entirely according to regulation. But her deep desire to be a mother to the four-year-old boy she calls Mat causes Lucy to push her doubts aside.

Susan Schoenberger has created a gem of a character in Lucy McVie. A professor of religion with a secret affection for saints, Lucy is honest, ethical, self-deprecating, and devoted to her family. She's also awkward, easily awed, and completely lacking in feminine wiles. Her relationship with Harlan, revealed through flashbacks, is sweet but poignant. Throughout the novel I wondered who the real saint was: Lucy, Harlan, both, or neither.

A Watershed Year turned out to be much more than I expected. A situation that might have been predictable or facile is neither. Lucy's watershed year takes her on more than one journey, and she encounters heartache, danger, and more loss. But Schoenberger leads the reader toward an emotionally resonant ending that had this reader in tears.

For more on the author, visit http://www.susanschoenberger.com/


bermudaonion said...

I love books that speak to me on an emotional level. This book sounds so good - I'm adding it to my wish list.

Scriptor Senex said...

Sounds a bit like one of Cecilia Aherne's - I can't recall the title. It will be interesting to compare the tw.

Susan Schoenberger said...

Thanks so much for this quite wonderful review. I'm always happy when a high school English teacher has nice things to say (even 30 years out of high school).

@Scriptor Senex That book is P.S. I Love You, but with the exception of the email plot line, my book is very different. Hope you give it a try!

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad this book exceeded your expectations! Thanks for being on the tour.