Review: The Space Between Before and After by Jean Reynolds Page

The Book Gods have been kind to me.  Recently I received a package from the Avon Trade division of Harper Collins containing not one but two books for my review.  I was tempted to add them to my ever growing stack, knowing it might be weeks before I got around to them, but instead passed one of those books and a couple others from the review stack to Elaine, a friend in my book club.  This girl is a reading machine!  Within a few days time she’d read the three books I’d given her and reviewed them for me.  Here is her first review for Books on the Brain:

The Space Between Before and After by Jean Reynolds Page is about a slightly dysfunctional family and their three-day visit in a small rural town in Texas.  Holli/Hollyanne, divorced and living in NY, believes that her aging grandmother who raised her is loosing her grip on reality.  Holli decides to go to her childhood home in Thaxton, TX, to check up on Grandma Raine to make sure she is all right.  Around the same time, she hears that her twenty-year-old son, Connor, who had recently run away from college with his girlfriend and moved into a trailer behind Grandma Raine’s house in Thaxton, may also be facing a crisis of his own, with his girlfriend in the hospital.  As a result, all the family descends upon Thaxton to solve these problems and, consequently, create more family drama than Holli initially expected. 

This three-day trip becomes the setting for some critical life decisions, secrets revealed, reflections into love, faith and loss, and flashbacks into Holli’s own troubled childhood.   The drama in the Texas home, the majority of the book, reminded me of a stage play, with lots of one-on-one conversations rotating between the various characters.  This part of the novel seemed to drag on a bit after the major conflicts are introduced.  In contrast, Holli’s flashbacks to her childhood and relationships with her father and stepmother, I believe, were interesting and heartbreaking.  Coincidentally or not, many of the tragedies of Holli’s life happen in concert with events in space.  I am still trying to figure out if there is any deeper symbolism in the space theme (the emptiness, the danger of traveling into the “heavens”, etc.), but I felt like it was more of a literary “gimmick” to tie the events together, more than anything else.  Also, it seemed as though every character had a secret to reveal and there seemed to be a few too many parallel tragedies in the story to be realistic, although maybe some families are simply that unlucky. 

The novel is extremely well written, albeit slightly long.  Minor criticisms aside, the book is a very enjoyable read and I would recommend it to someone interested in family drama. 

Blogger Bio:  Elaine Legere is stay-at-home mommy and part-time marketing consultant, after years of working for Disney, Palm (aka Palm Pilot), Los Angeles Times, and Details Magazine.  She received her BA at UCLA in English Literature and an MBA from University of Colorado. She is an avid reader, loves movies, and all things outdoors.