Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Book Review: COMMUTERS by Emily Gray Tedrowe

So about a month ago or so I was approached by TLC Book Tours and was asked if I would like to read this specific book and review it for all of you. Which made me super excited for the following reasons:

1. I like to read.
2. I liked the cover of the book.

COMMUTERS by Emily Gray Tedrowe (her website is HERE)

Commuters: A Novel (P.S.)
So to start out, I'll provide the brief synopsis from the back of the book: "At seventy-eight, Winnie Easton has finally found love again with Jerry Trevis, a wealthy Chicago businessman who has moved to the small, upstate town of Hartfield, New York, to begin his life anew. But their decision to buy one of the town's biggest houses ignites anger and skepticism- as children and grandchildren take drastic actions to secure their own futures and endangered inheritances. With so much riding on Jerry's wealth, a decline in his physical health forces hard decisions on the family, renewing old loyalties while creating surprising alliances. A powerfully moving novel told from alternating perspectives, Commuters is an intensely human story of lives profoundly changed by the repercussions of one marriage, and by the complex intertwining of love, money, and family."

OK- so the story basically is following three characters, Winnie (the new bride at 78), Rachel (Winnie's daughter), and Avery (Jerry's grandson, fresh out of rehab). I have to be honest (because I'm nothing if not honest)- I really disliked Winnie and Rachel. I liked Avery because I felt, at the core, he really wanted to be a better person, that he was aware of the things around him and he wanted to be better. Winnie, while I think it's kind of sweet that old people fall in love and get married, is selfish. She is so fixated on building a pool, while removing a super old tree that is important to the community, just so Jerry can swim and feel better. I mean, I understand that swimming helps relieve aches and pains. I get it. But realistically? I have to think that most seniors understand that their time to die is coming soon. And I think her fixation on this pool and how unrealistic the dream is really stole her time with Jerry. It's like she couldn't really get beyond it. As a reader, it was really frustrating to me because I just wanted to shake her shoulders. In retrospect, maybe it was a way for her to cope with the inevitable loss of Jerry? I don't know- but it drove me nuts.

But Rachel. Oy. I really disliked her character. Not only was she mean to her husband, who survived a devastating accident that affected him permanently, but she was selfish. She's the type of person that is materialistic and more concerned about what people thought of her and her family than looking at what was truly important. And it's sad because everybody knows at least one person like this.

While I really started out disliking two of the main characters, I could really relate to the relationship between Winnie and Rachel. It echoed a lot of the things about the relationship I have with my own mom. Specifically times when Rachel questions her mother's motives and realizes she really doesn't know her mother. At another point Winnie realizes that through her pool project she either looks past Rachel's marriage which is on the rocks or doesn't see it in the first place. And honestly? It hit home.

I consider my mom and I to be close, but at the end of the day I wonder. I mean, she doesn't really know who my friends are, the things that make me tick, the things in my heart, the fears I have for the future. She doesn't understand why I do or say the things I do. And in turn, I don't really know my mom. Just because you've lived with someone for 28 years doesn't mean you know them. I don't know a lot about my mom after she had me. I hear childhood stories and I know some things from when I was little but there's a point in the timeline where I know nothing. And one of my fears is that someday, when she's gone, I'm going to find all of these things out and I'll feel sad that I never got to have a discussion with my mom. And it's nuts because there could be nothing there and it's all in my head, but what if there's something? So I felt like Winnie and Rachel are the same. While you just wish Rachel would wake up and appreciate her husband, her children, and the life they've built- you kind of know she won't.

And I have to say, without giving too much of the ending away, the way the Jerry character is phased out? Annoying. I honestly would have liked to have more Winnie vs. Annette (Jerry's daughter)- at least Annette hear some of the reasoning. I don't know- but I wish that character had been developed a little more.

I want to touch on Avery's character too. I loved Avery. He'd be the kind of guy, if I were single and dating, that I would automatically be drawn to. Kind of a bad boy, although recovering, a sensitive soul, the kind of guy you just want to hold his face and tell him he's special. He sounds dreamy. :) And I loved his relationship with Nona (his girlfriend) and the ending for his character? Fabulous. It almost feels like Avery & Nona could have their own book and I think that's a sign of some great character building- when you want to see more of them.

So in closing, this falls under my "good read" category. I really liked it, it made me look at the relationships in my life a little different. It was kind of nice to be able to step back and look at the same type relationship but as a third party. Maybe it's what I needed.


Krysten @ Why Girls Are Weird said...

The fact that you got so much out of the characters (whether liking or disliking them) tells me that this had to be a good book. I'll have to check it out!

Jen Mc said...

Thanks for the review - you dissect the characters so well!!!
I will have to check into this book - thanks!

Anonymous said...

There are some books that can be enjoyed despite the unlikeability of main characters, and this sounds like one of those books. :)

Thanks for agreeing to be a part of the tour!