first you try everything

Two weeks of illness and a bit of travel on Jim's end translated into a bit of quiet here on the blog-front. Today, I am happy to report that skies are blue, energy returns, and I'm confident that spring will indeed swap snow for leaves before long.

We've barely left the house, and I have little to show for two weeks beside a messy house, but dang it, I did read a book (and watch nearly two season of Friday Night Lights, 'cause I'm literary like that:)  I'm happy to pass my copy of Jane McCafferty's newest novel along to another reader, so just leave a comment and I'll ship it out to one of you next week.

First You Try Everythingis the second novel from the Pittsburgh author, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University.  The Steel City figures so prominently as to be almost a character instead of merely the setting in which a love story unravels.  As a former Pittsburgher, that was a delicious surprise, but even non-yinzers will appreciate McCafferty's loving attention to place.

Ben and Evvie are in their early forties, married since youth.  They take turns narrating the tale, which is as much about Evvie's descent into mental illness as it is about the dissolution of a marriage.  Their story is heartbreaking and human, and the poetic way that McCafferty inhabits her character's thoughts, fears, and delusions is powerful and evocative.

There are no villains.  Evvie and Ben love each other, and even as he pulls away, his tenderness never wanes.  Their lives are so entwined that there can be no clean break; they are part of the fabric of one another.  But her illness is a wedge, and they cannot be healthy or whole together any longer.

It's not a feel-good story, obviously, but the emotion rings true, the characters well-drawn:
Her heart was big and opening, breaking in half like a drawbridge.
She looked at his face.  Now that he has crossed this radical, irreparable line, he loved her again, the way you love your old town as the train pulls away from the station.
Want to read it, too?  Leave a comment by 2/21/12 with your own book recommendation (and a way to get in touch), and I'll let pick someone to send my once-read copy to.

Disclosure:  There is a (peanut butter?) smudge on one page, but that's sorta how things roll around here.  My copy was provided by TLC, and I was not otherwise compensated for this review.

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