Monday, July 28, 2014
Lifelines by Caroline Leavitt
4.0 out of 5 stars - "A talent is to sort out life with, to explain it so you won't ever feel like you're out of control."
This is not just another mother-daughter drama, but a finely constructed and compelling study of the nature of expectations, superstitions, and dreams. If you are told that you are special, unique, and have a gift -- will you believe it, live up to it, or even want it?
Isadora, raised in what she calls a "strange paradise" by her psychic mother and a doting father (a dentist who uses hypnotism to reduce pain during procedures), was told from the beginning that she had a special ability that she would have to find within herself. Fighting against the stigma of having a mother who read palms and had visions when touching objects belonging to other people, Isadora can't seem to discover one iota of any power within herself. Although initially very attached to her parents, particularly to her mother, teen rebellion surfaces and feeds her desire to escape the embarrassment of being her mother's completely ordinary daughter. Because of the "star" on her palm, Isadora's mother Duse insists that it is a sign of the talent within if only Isadora would try harder to figure it out. Thinking her mother a charlatan and resisting any belief in the supernatural, Isadora escapes to attend college out of state and limps painfully toward adulthood with only a smidgen of insight and understanding about the nature of love. When her life spirals out of control, she goes back to the only bulwark of certainty she has ever known -- her mother. But this time, Duse does not have the answers and solutions that Isadora desperately needs.
What made this good -- the author's writing. She makes you want to know these characters even as you shake your head at some of the choices they make and the things they do. In fact, Isadora isn't a particularly likable person, and the reader may get impatient with her, but definitely will feel some empathy for her struggles for intimacy and independence. The novel is fairly short and is a quick read, only because of the desire to see where Isadora's search for herself takes her. I've read another of this author's books -- Is This Tomorrow -- and I enjoyed it as well. This is not a tale with happily ever after endings, but it feels authentic and hopeful nevertheless. I don't necessarily believe in psychic powers, or palm reading, but then again, I might if I had personal experience of it or saw it in action. To say that Duse is an unconventional mother is an understatement, but the reader never doubts her love for her daughter and every mother's wish for her child -- to be happy. I think book groups would find this a great one for discussion.
Thank you to NetGalley and Open Road Integrated Media for the e-book ARC to review.