From Publishers Weekly
Vogue contributing editor Johnson examines in her heartbreaking debut the ties that bind and break in the face of tragedy. Darius, a Shakespeare scholar and professor, and his wife, Sophia, head of membership at a local art museum, are mired in the banal ebb-and-flow of family life they share with their two teen daughters—bookish Miranda and imperious social butterfly Helen. A sisterly tussle over use of the family car ends with Miranda attending college orientation and finding herself attracted to fellow freshman-to-be Jason, and Helen, while riding on the back of her just-dumped boyfriend’s motorcycle, getting into a horrific traffic accident. As Helen lies in the ICU suspended between life and death, the author gives voice to the people Helen has touched: Darius and Sophia find little solace in each other; Harry Harlow, the game show host who was involved in Helen’s accident, witnesses his life falling apart; and Miranda awkwardly navigates the feelings Jason has stirred within her. While the wandering focus on disparate characters pulls the novel in unwieldy directions (as when Miranda drops out to follow her boyfriend to Alaska), Johnson’s portrayal of a family’s grieving is exquisitely crafted. (Jan.)
And Sometimes Why by Rebecca Johnson came out on Valentine’s Day, February 14th, but I was lucky enough to win an advance copy from ReadingGroupGuides.com. I devoured this book in less than 48 hours. I’m not sure if I can come up with the right words to do this novel justice.
It is a gripping tale of what happens to a family after a tragic accident puts their lives into a state of suspended animation. Watching this family fall apart reminded me in many ways of Jacqueline Michard’s The Deep End of the Ocean because in both cases, the parents are left to deal with a child who is not dead, but is in every other way gone.
Each family member comes to terms with the tragedy differently and in their own time. The grieving parents’ relationship is torn apart as they disagree over their daughter’s care. The distraught sister is the one who asks the hard questions and is the most realistic. She moves from the family home in California to Alaska with her boyfriend. One day on a walk she encounters a fox in a trap, still alive but suffering. She decides to put it out of it’s misery with her own hands. Afterwards.. “Each time she glanced down at the body.. she felt her horror fade a tiny bit. A body without life was an empty container. Nothing to be afraid of. Nothing to weep over.”
Ms. Johnson has done a great job of making her characters believable. They seem so real to me. It is a heartbreaking and compelling story, and so well written that it’s hard to believe it’s a first novel.
A book club would find much to discuss from And Sometimes Why (discussion questions can be found HERE). The ending is open ended and I find myself wondering what the characters would do next. This is a remarkable book and one I would highly recommend.
I’ve received an email from the author, and she is talking with the publisher to see if we can do a giveaway of this book here at Books on the Brain. I’m hoping she will also agree to an interview. Check back soon for details.
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