Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Shelter Me Book Review

Shelter Me by Juliette Fay

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Blurb: Four months after her husband's death, Janie LaMarche remains undone by grief and anger. Her mourning is disrupted, however, by the unexpected arrival of a builder with a contract to add a porch onto her house. Stunned, Janie realizes the porch was meant to be a surprise from her husband - now his last gift to her.

As she reluctantly allows construction to begin, Janie clings to the familiar outposts of her sorrow - mothering her two small children with fierce protectiveness, avoiding friends and family, and stewing in a rage she can't release. Yet Janie's self-imposed isolation is breached by a case of unlikely interventionists: her chattering, ipecac-toting aunt; her bossy, over-manicured neighbor; her muffin-bearing cousin; and even Tug, the contractor with a private grief all his own.

As the porch takes shape, Janie discovers that the unknowable terrain of the future is best navigated with the help of others - even those we least expect to call on, much less learn to love.

Review by Brittany:

I picked this book up on sale at a used bookstore, never having heard of the book or author before. I had previously read a book similar to this, one that centered on the grief of becoming a widow, so I knew the topic would interest me.

The anger and grief that Janie feels throughout the entire book is so well written that I felt like I could relate, even though I've never been in Janie's situation before. There were scenes where she would be irrationally angry about things that were going on, and she would recognize how ridiculous she was being and still she couldn't stop herself. One such scene occurs when a fellow mother is late bringing Janie's 5-year-old son back from a playdate. Janie snaps in front of both her son and the other little boy, unloading pounds of anger onto the other mother. Janie's frustrations in this moment may be justified, but her reaction is not, and she is aware of this even as it's happening. The author always manages to make what Janie is feeling clear and relatable, including the times when Janie is appalled by her own behavior.

The characters in this novel are also all well written, including Janie's young children. She has her young son, Dylan, and her baby girl, Carly, who is about 10 months old when the book starts. Babies aren't typically given much personality or very many identifying traits, but the author took care to give some to Carly. Dylan is given scenes where his little boy silliness comes through, but he is also a character who reminds Janie of the value of forgiveness and the joys that still remain in life. There are times when Dylan struggles with understanding what happened to his father, and even those moments feel genuine - thanks to the writing.

The characters of Tug (the carpenter) and Father Jake (the priest at Janie's church) play pivotal roles in Janie's journey of grief. Tug becomes an unusual but close friend, and there are scenes he has with Dylan that are so funny and light - a nice change of pace in such a heavy book. Father Jake is there to help Janie deal with her grief, but the lines of their relationship blur throughout the story as they become more and more dependent on one another.

I loved this book. The author did a fantastic job of writing all of the characters and all of the emotions that each character experiences. I definitely recommend!

Notable quotes:

I can barely stand to feel my own feelings, let alone anyone else's.

I guess everyone wants to spend the day in bed sometimes, she told herself, but when you feel half dead to begin with, it's an urge you really ought to fight. 

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