Seemingly, I finish with one book and immediately begin another. So I am quite relieved – and a touch grateful – to find an author I like who has written more than one. Further, in an effort to justify the copious hours spent with my nose buried in the kindle, I’m convinced that this method helps to ‘hear’ the author’s voice and get invested in the writing style. And as I always say, the more you read, the more you know what you like. And the better able you are to tell the good writing from the bad. It just makes sense.
So I’ve been reading. And after I finished one of my favorite books of the year thus far – ‘Where’d You Go Bernadette‘, I was recommend by the neural networks at amazon to try ‘Helen of Pasadena‘. Clever neural networks.
The story focuses on Helen, who lives in Pasadena, and how she turns lemons into lemonade as she deals with the sudden death of her husband, its effects on their son, and the discovery that not all was a bed of roses in her ‘forever’ house. It’s one part tragedy, one part comedy, and one part social commentary on the minutiae of lives lived in ordered one-up-man-ship.
Reading it was like listening to a friend tell a story animatedly and intently, with a drink in her one hand and the other on your arm. Like she’s sharing not a secret, and not good gossip, but something life-changing, life-affirming. I drank it in, and was rooting for Helen’s transformation from accommodating wife/mother and local volunteer powerhouse to patient and insightful widowed working mom, bravely sussing out the virtues and vices in her functionally dysfunctional town. Ms Dolan kept me guessing when she introduced a love interest. And had me laughing, and then crying, as friends and family added their own follies and foibles into Helen’s complicated mix. As they are wont to do.
I’m sure that this book would be considered ‘chick-lit’; but it is so much deeper than that genre’s standard fare, with excellent character development and a storyline that sits just close enough to suburban home in its plausibility for it to ring true. And leave us thinking: ‘There, but for the grace of God…’
Lian Dolan is skilled and creative and engaging in her writing. And I ask nothing more.
Except another book.
Which she wrote.
And I read.
So if you read – and like – Helen of Pasadena, snag a copy of the second book in ‘the Rose City trilogy’: Elizabeth the First Wife. Equally charming and eminently readable, and set on location in both Pasadena and Ashland, Oregon, this book tangles not with Greek mythology or classical history but with Shakespeare and his comedies. Reinvention themes strongly again with another group of excellently drawn characters, including a familiar few from Helen’s story.
Ms Dolan certainly has a knack for blending the larger-than-life quality of historical writing with a contemporary take on humor, compassion, and transformation. She is a unique perspective in the modern literary sea. And I hope you enjoy her books.
NB: I was not paid for this review, of either books or amazon. Nor was I ‘gifted’ said books or kindle. As always, all views are expressly my own.