"No one can be lonely who has a book for company." ~ Nelle Reagan

Friday, January 17, 2014

Our Love Could Light the World by Anne Leigh Parrish

Our Love Could Light the World
A collection of stories
Author:  Anne Leigh Parrish
Published:  May 2013
Publisher:  She Writes Press
Pages:  202
Source:  A complimentary copy was provided by the author and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  Receipt thereof bears no influence over my opinion nor this review.

You know the Dugans.  They’re that scrappy family down the street.  Their five children run free, they never clean up after their dog, and the husband hasn’t earned a cent in years.  You wouldn’t want them for neighbors, but from a distance, they’re quite entertaining.
Kirkus Reviews calls Our Love Could Light The World “a successful collage of linked stories set in a rich, dysfunctional world” using “the Gothic tropes of Southern literary fiction.”  Set in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, Our Love Could Light The World has been compared to the works of Flannery O’Connor, Alice Munro, and Elizabeth Strout.  Our Love Could Light The World was a finalist in the 2013 International Book Awards.

My Thoughts (*warning spoiler alert*)

Our Love Could Light the World is a story of mayhem.  You probably know families like this or at least different aspects of the dysfunctional family, the Dugans.  The mom, Lavinia, works supporting her injured husband, Potter, and their five children.  Little effort seems to be made on Potter's part to offer discipline and guidance to their children.  He finds the bottle to be a comforting friend and pain killer.  The five children all have challenges of their own which only add to the motley of issues.  Lavinia, on the other hand, does it all.... at least she tries.   Until one day when she decides all of it is just too much....isn't something she's cut out for. She's fed up with all the hi jinx, the stress of supporting a household alone, and she leaves.  That's it.  One day she just doesn't come home.  She moves in with her boss whom she later marries.

"She's not coming back," Patty said. [Potter's sister]

"You don't know that." [Potter]

"It's not what I know or don't know that counts.  It's what she knows and if I had to guess, she made up her mind a long time ago." (page 24)

A myriad of other characters join the cast and I found it difficult to keep them straight.  When the eldest daughter has a birthday party thrown for her, the number of people now included in the story offered a confusing read.  There was Potter's sister, her boyfriend,  and Potter's new girlfriend who throws a huge fit and police become involved.  Names became confused but maybe that's not the author's fault.  Perhaps it's because I just didn't care.  Sure I could empathize to a point but I didn't find a personal attachment to any of the characters, so you throw in a few more and I'm just not interested.  Sigh.

This novel has earned accolades, such as a nomination for International Book Awards Finalist, which I congratulate Anne Leigh Parrish for.   There were entertaining moments and there were times when I wanted to shake a character to bring them about, like the father who spent more time drinking and watching television than looking after his family, and I get it.  This isn't a rosy picture...not a perfect family... and that can be entertaining.  Families aren't perfect.  They may appear to be on the outside but a family is made up of imperfect people.  The Dugans are an exaggeration of the lack of perfection.   

There is one message in all this that I believe author Anne Leigh Parrish is trying to convey and this is a bit of a spoiler; it's that we mustn't take our loved ones for granted.  

"Lavinia kept her eye on Potter until he turned her way once more.  She tried to recall his exact expression later, and each time hoped it conveyed his constant love for her.  In her honest moments, which still came in the early hours, she knew it had shown only surprise." (page 192)

Lavinia never seemed truly happy wherever nor with whomever she was.  She seemed to like the idea of others being in love with her but I'm not sure she ever really loved.  And that is really quite sad.

Anne Leigh Parrish’s debut novel, What is Found, What is Lost, is forthcoming in late 2014 from She Writes Press.  Her first story collection, All The Roads That Lead From Home, (Press 53, 2011) won a silver medal in the 2012 Independent Publisher Book Awards.  To learn more, visit her at www.anneleighparrish.com

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