CreateSpace, $14.95, ISBN 978-1440461163
Contemporary Fiction, 2008
Meet Tess Dyer, our heroine in RJ Keller’s Waiting for Spring. She’s an emotional mess. It’s not just that she recently had a painful divorce – her problems go way back, thanks to a dysfunctional childhood. Poor Tess is lonely, but she tends to either sleep with the wrong men or commit inadvertent self-sabotage every time there is a possibility that she may just be happy in a relationship.
After the divorce is final, Tess does what every heroine in this kind of stories does: she flees to a small town for a fresh new start. In this story, it’s New Mills, Maine. There is, of course, a new love waiting for her in New Mills. His name is Brian LaChance. He has his problems no, and no, it’s not due to people making fun of his last name. His sister Rachel is hanging out with a bad crowd and Brian is trying to stop her from become another junkie in this sad, sad world.
The prose in Waiting for Spring is fragmented and sometimes curt and abrupt, but that is quite appropriate given the state of mind of the first person narrator. Tess is messed up with practically every issue in the Women’s Fiction Handbook of Psychological Disorders and Neuroses, after all. For a while, I find my attention fully engaged with this story, because despite the fragmented harshness of the story, there are truly heartbreakingly beautiful scenes of romance and tenderness between Tess and Brian.
However, I feel that the author has made a misstep in allowing the later half of this story to focus way too much on Tess’s insecurities and the way she and Brian nearly messed up for good. Perhaps the author should have let these two get together only in the end instead of by the midway point, I don’t know, because once these two have decided that they are in love, the story shifts towards Tess’ messing up some more. The problem here is that the author doesn’t know when to stop, so after a while, Tess’s non-stop angst stops being heartbreaking or even believable and starts coming off instead like a contrived attempt on the author’s part to keep the story going. Perhaps the story should have been shorter? I don’t know, but I feel that the author played her hand too early here because the best scenes are all packed in the early parts of the story. This is just me talking, though. I suspect that there will be readers out there who find the love story too mushy or even contrived for their liking and prefer instead the focus on Tess’s attempts to get her act together, heh.
Waiting for Spring contains a harsh kind of beauty in the prose and there is a heartbreaking poetry in the whole tale, all of which I find appealing. Despite my disappointment at how the momentum of the story dissipates way too early, I have to say that I enjoy reading this story.