Friday, November 25, 2016
Book Review: The Taste of Air
Children find it impossible to see their parents as anything other than parents. They cannot envision – and usually do not care – who they were before their children were born; what their interests are outside of the family, or even the lives they might want to lead after the children have grown. Even grown-up children struggle with this, as evidenced every time a bewildered widower introduces his children to his new partner and watches her get the cold shoulder. In Gail Cleare’s The Taste of Air, two adult sisters are faced with this realization. But rather than learning about an early first marriage or former career, Nell Williams and her sister Bridget learn their widowed mother has a completely secret second life.
Happily married Nell believes her mother Mary is firmly ensconced in a retirement village in Massachusetts. But when she gets a call that her mother has been hospitalized, it’s a Vermont hospital that’s calling. Nell is stunned to learn that Mary has had a secret cottage for decades, not to mention a clandestine relationship with the neighbor whose wife died under mysterious circumstances. As Nell works to learn the truth about her mother’s life, Mary struggles to live and Bridget deals with her own marital problems. The narrative moves back and forward in time as Mary – and later, Bridget’s – secrets come home to roost.
I read The Taste of Air while at the bedside of my own dying father-in-law, so the hospital scenes were especially poignant, meaningful and accurate to me. Cleare’s voice and plotting style reminded me a lot of Danielle Steel’s. I am not a Danielle Steel fan, but she has millions of readers who love her voice and coincidental plot points, so Cleare should benefit from the comparison. Her descriptions of Vermont were particularly evocative. I’ve never lusted after lakeside cottages or fresh maple syrup, but Cleare’s picturesque storytelling had me considering a trip north.
Even if this type of story isn’t your cup of tea, Cleare’s tale – and my own recent experience – is an important reminder to have a frank talk with your aging parents about their financial and health status. You may end up in a situation where you will be asked to make medical decisions for them. Know their wishes before this happens. It’s unlikely that your widowed mother has a secret life in Vermont, but it is likely that you’ll be called on to help her during her golden years.
Thanks to Red Adept Publishing for the book in exchange for an honest review.