Janie LaMarche is suddenly widowed at age 38 after seven wonderful years of marriage. Her husband Robby, out riding his bike, was hit by an older driver. She has two children, Dylan, 4, and Carly, who is only 8 months old. Janie is sad, angry, and fearful. Into this house of emotional land mines comes Tug Malinowski, a 45-year-old contractor previously hired by Robby to build Janie a screened-in porch. Tug doesn’t know the man who hired him is dead; he offers to tear up the contract, but Janie decides that if Robby wanted it, she should go through with it.
But this isn’t a straight-forward predictable romance. There are a lot of other issues added to the story. Janie feels abandoned by her mother, who took off for Italy rather than helping Janie through this period of mourning. Janie has a twin brother Mike, but he has Asperger’s, and is not someone from whom she can get emotional sustenance. Her best friend and neighbor now has a boyfriend, and is moving away to be closer to him. Janie turns to the young parish priest, Jake, who insists on visiting her weekly, and with whom Janie gets dangerously close. Through it all, including numerous angry outbursts from Janie, Tug hangs in there, helping quietly in the background. Eventually Janie thinks there might be a path to happiness for herself, but like many people in her position, she is afraid to be happy; afraid to betray the memory of her husband, and afraid of risking more loss.
Evaluation: This is a good “women’s lit” book, with perhaps too many issues thrown in (some problems of contemporary Catholicism also come into play, such as pedophilia, celibacy, and holiday Catholics; as well as conflicts with relatives and urban crime), but then again, life is complex in just that way. The author does a good job of keeping the reader’s sympathies with Janie, despite Janie’s petulance and emotional volatility.
Published by Avon Paperbacks, an imprint of HarperCollins, 2009