MIRA, $5.99, ISBN 0-7783-2011-1
Contemporary Fiction, 2004
Fans of Pamela Morsi’s historical romances that may be pleased to know that she returns to the familiar theme of hardworking good people living and loving through good and bad times in Suburban Renewal. This book is written in first person (both the hero and heroine take turns to tell the story) and while the story deals with a married couple’s twenty years of living together, much of the elements that make this author’s historical romances popular are intact. Unlike the author’s last two women’s fiction offerings, it is also a more romantic story.
The story begins in present day when Corrie Braydon celebrates her twenty-first anniversary by asking her husband Sam how they should celebrate the event – should they renew their vows or divorce? Sam is stunned by the D word. From that point, the story goes back all the way to 1977 where Sam and Corrie, two young lovers, discover that they are having a baby and decide to get married despite the reservations of their parents. For the next twenty-five years, Sam and Corrie will experience ups and downs with their children, family, and friends. Landmark events such as the Oklahoma bombing and the dotcom crashes, AIDS, parental blues, suicide, domestic violence (no, not that – Sam is a nice person), even a tornado – the Braydons will have to fight hard and love hard through good and bad times.
There is an inherent optimistic and upbeat rhythm in the author’s writing style that makes it impossible for me to even imagine that for once the Braydons will not overcome the obstacles in their paths. Good friends and supportive family members always there to lend a hand, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel and a silver lining in the clouds, that sort of thing. The few villains in this story are really too cartoonish to be taken seriously.
Make no mistake, I really enjoy this story. After all, Sam and Corrie and their friends and family members are mostly good and hardworking people one would be glad to call friends or family members. But I never have a chance to be a participant in this story – emotionally, I am never actually hooked by the story. Instead, I am merely an observer in this story.
I also find the author’s use of the D word as a gimmick to lure me into reading the story rather unfortunate. It turns out that there is really no good reason for the Braydons to get divorced – no reasons that they can’t get together and work over, at least – so this flippant treatment of the concept of divorce makes me feel manipulated.
But that’s just a minor quibble. While this story doesn’t have the emotional hook to bowl me over and knock me off my feet, it is nonetheless a very pleasant and romanticized family drama. Readers disappointed with the more conventional women’s fiction direction the author took in her last two books may be pleasantly charmed by the stronger and more prominent emphasis on spousal love, faith, and family in Suburban Renewal.