Souvenir by Therese Fowler
|Souvenir by Therese Fowler|
|Genre: Women's Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Fairhead|
|Summary: Meg learns that she has a fatal disease. Her teenage daughter is meeting a dubious Internet friend in secret. A thought-provoking novel.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 448||Date: July 2007|
This novel begins with a prologue, set in 1989. Meg, on the morning of her wedding to Brian, goes to visit her friend Carson to say goodbye, and ends up in bed with him for one last time. Carson cannot understand why she is marrying someone else when she and he have loved each other for so long, and, not surprisingly, is very angry with her.
After the prologue, the story moves forward to 2006. Meg is an obstetrician, having slight trouble with her arm, which gradually gets worse. Her husband is rather remote, although generous, and we quickly learn that she was rather coerced into marrying him, to save her parents from bankruptcy. Meg hasn't seen Carson since the morning of her wedding, but that doesn't stop her thinking about him, and collecting all his CDs. For Carson, by this stage, is a well-known singer/songwriter.
Carson, meanwhile, is on the verge of marriage to an exuberant surfer. He's not entirely certain that he's doing the right thing, but she loves him, and there's much to be said for marriage, so he's going along with all her ideas about where to live, and arrangements for the wedding. However he has never forgotten Meg...
Oh, and there's also Savannah, Meg's teenage daughter, who is nearly sixteen and - to date - a responsible girl who does well in school. Unknown to her parents, however, Savannah has an online boyfriend, Kyle. She has lied to him about her age, and plans to meet him for the first time, and indulge in a weekend of passion.
That's just the beginning of the book. By the time I'd read a few chapters, I felt a bit overwhelmed with different characters. For there are considerably more than I have mentioned: other doctors, members of Meg's family, and Savannah's best friend Rachel. I didn't feel much empathy with any of them by this stage, but I did feel suspense. The blurb on the back of the book mentions an incurable disease: evidently Meg's problem with her arm was going to be more serious than she thought. It was clear, too, that Savannah was going to have trouble with Kyle, and also that Meg and Carson were bound to re-connect at some point.
But it took a while to get going. Savannah's first meeting with Kyle was sordid in the extreme, with rather more detail than I wished to read. I wondered why it was there at all in a novel aimed - I assume - for middle-aged women rather than teenagers.
However I gradually found myself drawn into the story, so that by the time I was half-way through I could barely put it down. There were one or two moments when I even found a tear in my eye. Meg's character wasn't well developed, but the storyline was very powerful. What would she do, knowing she had only a few months (if that) to live? Was Savannah going to be dumped, or physically hurt, or become pregnant? What would Carson do when he heard about Meg's illness?
The book was well-written, too. The author writes confidently about medics and rock singers, in a way that feels like personal experience rather than extensive research. The incurable illness is treated sympathetically but without too much emotion, and it feels believable. It's also rather frightening, from my vantage point as a mother, to see how easily Savannah managed to deceive her parents to spend time with Kyle.
As I read, I found myself asking more than once what I would do in Meg's circumstances. It's a question that's going to be with me for some days to come.
Thanks to the publishers for sending this book.
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