Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Not To Us by Katherine Clare Owen
Those who know me know my love for all things paranormal and supernatural. It is my favorite genre of books and movies alike. On occasion though, I do enjoy great chick-lit or women’s fiction. I usually find myself nearly through with the book, realizing that I am still anticipating some supernatural creature to jump out from around the bend. It makes it difficult for me to change gears when switching to a different genre. This, however, is never the case when it comes to Katherine Owen’s superb writing and story telling. Because for 347 pages, my thoughts, not once, wandered to monsters or mythical creatures. For those 347 pages, I became Ellen Kay “Ellie” Bradford and was lost in the world that Katherine created for her readers.
Ellie is a devoted wife, adoring mother, selfless best friend and flourishing editor. Her life is a hectic one, but a much loved one. She and her husband, Robert, have been best friends with Carrie and Michael since their college days. Ellie and Robert’s eldest son, Nick, is not-so-secretly in love with Carrie and Michael’s beautiful daughter, Elaina. Their friendships and get-togethers have become their favorite past-time, until the day Ellie discovers that her best friend and confidant has been having an affair with her husband, Robert. As if that were not horrific enough, she finds out mere weeks later that she has breast cancer. And the doctor that delivers the devastating news? None other than the gorgeous Dr. Michael Shaw, Carrie’s husband and Ellie and Robert’s closest friend. Michael is determined to save Ellie’s life. Not because she is his patient. Not because she is his and his wife’s best friend. But because he loves her and has been in love with her ever since their college days. And that is only the tip of the iceberg for Ellie’s life changing events.
Many have described this book as a roller coaster ride. To me, that is like referring to Leonardo da Vinci as “the guy who really knew how to draw.” The significant shortage of Kleenex at my house is proof of the emotional journey Ellie’s story takes the reader on. A marriage ended, friendships tested, a life threatening illness, a love discovered, a tragic loss, and an unexpected pregnancy that interferes with a most needed cancer treatment are all now a part of Ellie’s day to day routine.
“I’m watching the B-action movie of my life. I’m the damsel in distress caught onboard the runaway amusement park ride careening out of control, going faster and faster. I can’t control the action any more than I can write the script. Let alone, direct it.”
I love Ellie’s courage, I understand her insecurities and I admire her stubbornness. I love the way Katherine Owen could have me in tears one moment, only to have me laughing out loud at Ellie’s sense of humor the next:
“Wow. It’s been almost four months, since I’ve seen this woman who systemically tore my life apart, worse than cancer ever could have done, and all I can say is thank you because I live by decorum and manners and saying f*ck you openly in a grocery store, especially, Safeway is just not done.”
I adore Ellie’s children. The detail the author provides made me fall in love with each one of them. Any mother will appreciate this gem:
“I take one final glance in the mirror and start toward the door, only to find Emily standing there, regarding me with the uninhibited enthusiasm only kindergartners possess. ‘You look beautiful, Momma,’ she says, breathless. How does this child know how to give away such gifts?”
I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that felt so personal. Almost as if I was prying by reading things I had no business reading, but yet couldn’t tear myself away in order to find out what happens next.
“Grief is like cancer. It ebbs and flows within you. Then, it changes and transforms you. Forever. Grief. Cancer. Both force you to face your worse fear---death. Grief and cancer. Both undermine your optimism of life. You finally see the cup is really just half full, even if you believed otherwise your whole life. Both teach you to believe that bad things can happen to people, whenever they’re good or bad or rich or poor or young or old, alike. Grief and cancer corner the market for all. Grief and cancer take all comers. Both rule. Do they always win? I begin to wonder.”
I know this: I will read anything and everything that Katherine Owen writes. She can turn the most ordinary words into a beautiful work of art. I love to put those little sticky flags in the books I am reading to mark my favorite passages in a story. My copy of Not To Us looks as if a packet of those flags exploded between its pages. I could hardly turn a page without reaching for them. I imagine even Katherine’s grocery lists to be rhythmical and inspirational. Seriously, this author’s writing is amazingly beautiful.
“‘Ah, so that’s what this is. You’re afraid of dying as much as you are afraid of living.’”
I’ll stop there as to keep this review spoiler-free. Not To Us is an astonishing story with many unexpected twists and turns. It is about one woman’s wishes, discovering the strength she didn’t know she possessed, forgiveness and understanding…but most importantly, learning to love herself. I’ll be counting down the days to Katherine’s next novel, When I See You.
“There are all kinds of ways for a relationship to be tested, even broken, some, irrevocably; it’s the endings we’re unprepared for.”
A huge thank you to the author for providing me with my beautiful copy of Not To Us in exchange for my honest review.