SECOND CHANCE RANCH by Barbara Kennedy


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A grieving widow reflects on her childhood and her marriage.

As she turns 50, the unnamed narrator mourns in the Arizona home that she built with her late husband, Paul. She also ruminates on her lonely, unhappy childhood, which was governed by a cold, angry father and a distant, mysterious mother. So detached is the narrator from her family that her mother fails to notify her when her father dies alone. Though she stayed at home until she was 35 for the sake of her younger sisters, her life doesn’t truly begin until she meets Paul, with whom she shares an intense connection. When contracting work becomes scarce in their Connecticut town, the couple moves to Arizona to start anew, and it is there that Paul is diagnosed with an incurable cancer and given six months to live. They marry and build their home, which they name the “Second Chance Ranch,” but it becomes difficult to take that chance with the death sentence and the disapproval of Paul’s family on the east coast, who make it clear to the narrator that her ministrations are not welcome. Paul finally retreats to Connecticut where he dies before the narrator can visit him. With her husband gone, the narrator turns her attention to art and grief, trying desperately to make something beautiful from such an ugly situation. Though she strives to elevate it to epic heights, Kennedy somehow manages to make Paul’s death mundane, even boring. With little real character development or action, the choppy, episodic narrative reads more like a diary than a novel, and as sentences consistently buckle under the weight of convoluted imagery, Kennedy overwrites to compensate for the anemic narrative flow.

Seems to be a personal project for the author, but her grief does not translate into an effective novel.

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 2005
ISBN: 1-4208-1137-1
Program: Kirkus Indie
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