Review: Somewhere in Blue by Gillian Cummings

Publication Date: May 15th, 2010
Lobster Press
Format: Paperback, 334 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Sandy Rawlins is sixteen years old. Her father – her best friend – has just passed away. She immediately begins to unravel, and yet her mother, mysteriously, is not grieving. Where can Sandy turn as the waves of grief overwhelm her? She doesn’t want to be a burden on her friend, Lennie, who has her own problems, trying to be the responsible one at home while her cougar of a mom is out bar-hopping. The boy next door – always a friend, but now perhaps something more – wants to be there for Sandy, but is it already too late? She has lost a part of her soul, and the aching sadness pulls her a little further away each day. Readers will be captivated by the dramatic lives of Sandy Rawlins, her friend Lennie Finn, and their two very different mothers. Set in contemporary Toronto, this is a story of intense loss and of reaching out for connections. It reveals four women struggling with their independence and their relationships with each other.

Sandy is barely holding on. There is this debilitating grief that gets worse as days go by. She soon shuts down and forces those who love her away. Losing her father feels like a heavy cloak of sadness and grief had descended upon her and no matter how hard she wills it to go away, it stays upon her day in and day out. Her mother seems to have recovered from her father’s death quite easily and with a precision of a goal-oriented executive. The gaping maw of grief widens between them as they struggle to keep their small family together.

Lennie’s mother is a bar fly set on finding the man who will “scratch her back”. Tired of the endless trail of younger men walking in and out of her mother’s bedroom, she wonders when she took over the role of being the responsible one. Doesn’t she realize that the right guy doesn’t hang around the bars picking up women dressed slightly respectable than a street corner prostitute? Teresa only ever want to find her true love. Sure she’s looking at the wrong places but being past her prime really doesn’t leave her much of a choice.

This is a story about four women struggling to find a pieces of themselves. It’s a moving account of what they would do to be themselves again.

Grief shared is grief diminished. – Rabbi Grollman

Sandy’s grief over her father, her best friend, her hero is so deep that I was convinced she’d never see her way out of it. Her mother on the other hand, was quite an infuriating character. She was cold and at times, intolerable. Her method of helping Sandy cope left a lot to be desired. But if I may be honest, what I really saw was two women, two forces with both hands on a rope. Vivian on the other end, pulling Sandy back to life and Sandy on the other tugging back far into the darkness of grief. I am a bit disappointed with how they resolved their differences. It was hastily done. In the end, my frustration with Vivian didn’t really dissipate. But perhaps there was another factor to my grievance with her – a secret that Sandy’s father had taken to the grave.

There’s a tiny bit of romance in this book, if that’s what you’re after. Because it was a very small part of the story, I was often looking forward to Dan and Sandy’s interactions. Theirs was a friendship, a support system first before anything else.

Teresa is one of those characters that I didn’t understand. Her desperate need to find a stable relationship with a man was, in all honesty, borderline frivolous in my opinion. But I guess there are those whose life is not complete without a man. I could may be fault her for continually putting her daughter’s well-being at risk by bringing home a parade of younger men she’d picked up at the bars but I couldn’t fault her for the love she has for Lennie.

Over all, I think Gillian Cummings story about life, grief and family was as real as it gets. There is such transparency to the way she told the story that painted her characters’ emotions quite vividly.

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