Sunday, April 10, 2011
Life Without a True Compass
My bother sends me many books both novels and non fiction because he is a true book lover. He has a special enthusiasm for coming of age novels by first time authors. I don’t always get to read them all before they are claimed by family members or friends. But in his is latest group I found Alison Espach’s debut novel “The Adults”.
This story begins on a summer night in the Connecticut suburb of Fairfield. The protagonist, Emily Marie Vidal, is describing her father’s fiftieth birthday party and the rather bizarre group of party goers. “I disapprove of this party, this whole at-home affair that would mark the last of its kind”, muses Emily. And so begins the unraveling of a family. Fourteen year old Emily is your basic spoiled adolescent, the only child of two disconnected adults. The morning of the party Emily’s parents announce that they are going to divorce and Emily’s father is moving to Prague. That is only the beginning for Emily. She unknowingly witnesses a shocking sight in the trees behind her house that night. Then, a few weeks later, she is the only eye witness to a suicide of a neighbor, the father of her would be boyfriend.
The best part of this novel is the voice of Emily. It is witty, but not obnoxious and she is very aware of the world she lives in and the adults who shape that world.
The events that “happen” to Emily lead her to begin a strange, inappropriate affair. Did the events that preceded the affair make Emily take this path, or has she encountered just one more adult in her life who is without a compass?
The story goes on into Emily’s adulthood. Things get complicated and we can’t help rooting for Emily to find her way, mostly because the author makes Emily seem so authentic. The ending is a bit convoluted but it is a good story, told with a voice that is smart, witty and sympathetic.