27/07/2007

Souvenir (by Therese Fowler)

'Souvenir' is the debut novel from the American writer Therese Fowler, and is set in the USA.

It begins with a prologue, set in 1989. Meg, on the morning of her wedding to Brian, goes to visit her friend Carson to say goodbye, and ends up in bed with him for one last time. Carson cannot understand why she is marrying someone else when she and he have loved each other for so long, and, not surprisingly, is very angry with her.

Then the story moves to 2006. Meg is an obstetrician, having trouble with her arm, which gradually gets worse. Her marriage to Brian is not exactly exciting. She hasn't seen Carson since the morning of her wedding, but that doesn't stop her thinking about him.

Carson, meanwhile, is on the verge of marriage, although he's having some doubts He has never forgotten Meg. There's also Savannah, Meg's teenage daughter, who is nearly sixteen. Unknown to her parents, Savannah has an online boyfriend, Kyle. She plans to meet him for the first time, and indulge in a weekend of passion.

That's just the beginning of the book. By the time I'd read a few chapters, I felt a bit overwhelmed with different characters; there are several minor ones as well as those mentioned above. I didn't feel much empathy with any of them, but I did feel suspense. The blurb on the back of the book mentions an incurable disease: evidently Meg's problem with her arm was going to be more serious than she thought. It was clear, too, that Savannah was going to have trouble with Kyle.

But it took a while to get going. Savannah's first meeting with Kyle was sordid in the extreme, with rather more detail than I wished to read, and the chapters kept switching between Carson and Meg, so it was hard to feel involved in the storyline at first.

However I gradually found myself drawn in, so that by the time I was half-way through I could barely put it down. Meg's character wasn't all that well developed, but the storyline was powerful. What would she do, knowing she had only a few months to live? What would happen between Savannah and Kyle? What would Carson do when he heard about Meg's illness?

The book was well-written, and felt believable. It was also rather worrying, from my vantage point as a mother, to see how easily Savannah managed to deceive her parents to spend time with Kyle. As I read, I found myself asking more than once what I would do in Meg's circumstances... and thinking about it for some time after I finished it.Recommended.

(My longer review of 'Souvenir' can be found here at the Bookbag site).

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