Besides college football, nothing says fall like being curled up under a blanket with a good book and a pot of soup of the stove. That said, I haven't been doing nearly enough reading! However, I did finish a really great book last week. Coincidently enough a new blog I've been reading did an interview with the author. I took both as a sign I should write about the book.
Songs Without Words is Ann Packer's follow up novel to her well-received, The Dive From Claussen's Pier. Despite being widely hailed, I never picked up TDFCP for one reason or another. However, when I read the plot to her latest work, I was intrigued.
Publisher's Weekly describes Songs as:
a richly nuanced meditation on the place of friendship in women's lives. Liz and Sarabeth's childhood friendship deepened following Sarabeth's mother's suicide when the girls were 16; now the two women are in their 40s and living in the Bay Area. Responsible mother-of-two Liz has come to see eccentric, bohemian Sarabeth, with her tendency to enter into inappropriate relationships with men, as more like another child than as a sister or mutually supportive friend. When Liz's teenage daughter, Lauren, perpetuates a crisis, Liz doubts her parenting abilities; Sarabeth is plunged into uncomfortable memories; and the hidden fragilities of what seemed a steadfast relationship come to the fore. Packer adroitly navigates Lauren's teen despair, Sarabeth's lonely longings and Liz's feelings of guilt and inadequacy.
What that review does not highlight is the exhaustion the reader will feel as she accompanies Liz and Sarabeth on this journey. I felt emotionally wrought and utterly confused as the book switched between characters' narrations and feelings. The book was incredible in the sense that multiple characters participated in the narration, all telling the same story but with completely different words. All the while I was, turning page after page, not knowing who to feel more love/hate for.
Packer tells the story with love and compassion for each character. They are all deeply flawed and full of regret. As a reader, you feel their longing and even feel some of your own--as the story makes you reflect upon your life choices and perhaps your lack of friendship at a time of need. When you read the book you will find a little bit of Liz and a little bit of Sarabeth in you. And that is exactly what makes the book so real and so haunting.
I highly recommend the book. It is perfect for a fall afternoon..and you'll probably read well into the night.