Monday, November 8, 2010

Book Review: The Unspoken Years

The Unspoken Years (Harlequin Next)
Author: Lynne Hugo
Title: The Unspoken Years
Publisher: Harlequin Next
Publish Date: May 1, 2006
Rating: 3 Stars
Book Blurb: "She was always crazy. Looking back, I see no doubt about it. It was a deceptive craziness, though, sometimes luminous and joyful. Even when it was, my brother and I knew it was important not to relax...."

Sometimes things -- no matter how hard a woman tries -- can't be fixed.

Ruth -- from childhood to young womanhood -- struggled to come to terms with her mother's often incomprehensible ways, sure that if she were good enough, tried hard enough, she would be able to save her mother from hurt and keep her family intact. If love were powerful enough, it could bring reason to the unreasonable, couldn't it?

Evan -- the man who convinced Ruth she needed more, if only she'd reach for it. But he never expected that his love for Ruth would be something she had to pay so dearly for.

Elizabeth -- "mother" -- the keeper of secrets.

Review: The Harlequin Next line was a lot like chicklit only for more mature readers. The Unspoken Years is more complex than chicklit. It is more than a story about a relationship. It is a story about a family and mental illness.

It was extremely well written, but there were just things about it that didn't click with me. I couldn't quite fathom a daughter (Ruthie) that would rather deal with the burden of a parent (Elizabeth) that had severe mental illness, then try to seek help for her, when she professed to want her to get well.

Not to mention all the crazy stuff that happened from the time she was a young girl until she was in college.

One of the questions for discussion in the back of the book dealt with Ruthie's grandmother, who no matter how you look at it, Elizabeth killed, and Ruth helped. Yes, it would be considered a mercy killing, but it was still a killing. Elizabeth in all her crazyness knew exactly what she was doing and wanted to do it.

I would have loved to have had more background on Ruth's mother, something that better explained her madness. It is implied that there might have been some incest, but nothing is painted clearly.

Then there was the guidance counselor who did his best to try to get Roger and Ruth away from their mother, but getting them into good colleges, but uh, why not try to get the lady committed?

The mom's behavior affected everyone, so it would seem logical for the writer to give us more than the tiny bit of background that she did. Worse still at the end, she gives us the impressions she left on her music students.

As the story went on, I found myself really hating Ruth, because she was such an enabler, and because when faced with someone who really loved her, she became selfish, foolish and a whole lot of other things ending in ish.

I understood her need to make peace with her mother when she got married without telling her, but ARGH there was so much to it that made me want to slap her.

Then there's Evan, the brother of her roommate's boyfriend. He's a great guy and she really lets her enabling behavior and guilt almost spoil their relationship.

Maybe it was just me, but as well as this book was written, it frustrated me. I couldn't stand to see all the character suffer like they did.


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