In Linse's (How to Be a Man, 2014) novel, three orphaned siblings must rely on each other through a host of tragedies and triumphs.
CJ, Tibs and Maggie are siblings whose lives fell apart when, during their childhood, their parents were killed in an accident. Their relationships with each as adults other are fraught, and their coping mechanisms, poor. CJ, the eldest, throws herself into her bartending job and relationships with unavailable men. Tibs idolizes Ernest Hemingway and dreams of becoming an author but can't bring himself to actually begin writing. And sweet Maggie, the youngest, throws a wrench into all of their lives when she falls for Jackdaw, a macho cowboy. When Maggie gets pregnant, Jackdaw reluctantly agrees to marry her but then withdraws completely when their child is born with spina bifida, leaving Maggie to rely on her siblings for support. Linse certainly has a feel for the world of rodeos, ranches and the West. Her descriptions ably evoke the landscape, with its "long string of beaver ponds that ripple and dazzle in the light." However, certain plot developments—a sudden pregnancy, the birth of a special needs child—don't feel organic to the narrative. Instead, the story turns into a soap opera, particularly when, late in the novel, an unexpected love triangle develops and is left unresolved. Furthermore, the story is divided into short chapters that alternate perspectives among the four main characters. While this can certainly be an effective storytelling technique, the chapters are so short (sometimes just a page or two), the transitions feel jarred and choppy. Each character therefore feels a little underdeveloped, left to the devices of the machinery of the plot. Ultimately, the story has its poignant elements but feels a little too trite for its own good.
A moving but uneven depiction of a family struggling through loss.
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