Saturday, July 23, 2016
June---Star Struck and Shallow
The most highly developed character in the book is Two Oaks, the great yellow mansion built by Gray Neeley in 1850's St Jude, Ohio. The house hums and stretches and leans and listens and groans. It is alert to the shadowy humans of the past who lived in it or partied in it and it vaguely senses the presence of the new tenant, Cassie Danvers, the despondent, depressed twenty something who has come home after the death of the grandmother who raised her, June. In an effort to explain Cassie's mind set and to explain the brooding mansion's decrepit state the author toggles back and forth between the present, 2015, and the past, 1955, the days of June's teens and the time of St Jude's fifteen minutes of fame as the setting for a mediocre Hollywood shoot of the film, Erie Canal. Unfortunately, this flashback approach dilutes the author's ability to develop the characters of these parallel plots. The description of St Jude and its surroundings as well as its buildings is excellent and the reader can easily envision the locale. It is also easy to see the changes in the place over the intervening sixty years. The excitement of small town folks invaded by Hollywood stars, their entourages and crews is very real. Unfortunately the sense of place does not create a sense of the inner workings of the main characters. Also difficult to discern is the relationships among some of the characters---why were Eben and Lindie so welcome in Two Oaks before the arrival of June and her mother and then just as rapidly persona non grata, not only by June's mother, Cheyl Ann but also by the housekeeper, Apatha? How is it that Lemon, though living at the beginning of the flashbacks, seems to have no influence in the home he built and there is no real demise and burial of his character.? There are many threads introduced in the 1955 sections that are left hanging tantalizing over the readers' heads, much as the ceiling rotting in an upstairs closet hangs threateningly over the temporary residents of the 2015 Two Oaks. Perhaps, the story would have been better told in two volumes--one before--the 1955 story with the secrets revealed--and one after--2015--with the living discovering them and making sense of the situation in which they find themselves. A orphaned artist, heart-broken at the loss of her grandmother, remorseful over the fractured relationship not healed before the death, finding herself suddenly the heiress of 37 million dollars in the estate of a playboy actor, with whom, to her knowledge, her family had no deep relationship. I read the book in one day, almost giving up several times with impatience but pushing on in hope that with time I would find something redeeming and deeper in the story. Finished disappointed and with a sense of something lacking. I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books for review.