In Wainland's (Rock Radio, 2013) novel, a journalist faces a medical emergency with her family by her side—including, unexpectedly, her runaway sister.
Twenty-nine-year-old Cassie works at a small New York City newspaper, where's she's been overlooked for a promotion. She also suffers from headaches and fatigue, which she blames on stress. Despite these troubles, she's happily engaged to Jake, a fellow Long Islander-turned-Manhattanite. They both experienced heartbreak when they were younger, but of very different kinds. When Cassie was 12, her older sister, Sandy, ran away from home to move to California with her boyfriend. Cassie felt responsible for the tensions between her sister and her parents, but she also felt abandoned by her sister. Jake's guilt goes much deeper: at 14, he and his friend distracted his mother as she drove them home on an icy day, causing an accident. Jake still feels responsible for his mother's death, and he's never told his father (or Cassie) the truth about the accident. Cassie finds out that her tiredness and headaches are actually due to a brain tumor; she needs emergency surgery, and Jake is devastated. The tragic news brings Sandy back to the East Coast for the first time since she was 18. Secrets, guilt, and emotional pain must all be put aside, in order to see Cassie through her difficult time. Wainland effectively captures the terror of a medical crisis, including the horrible waiting game of tests and recovery. However, she only scratches the surface of Jake and Cassie's relationship and their shared experiences of guilt and abandonment. They never confide in each other, as Cassie even mentions: "If he knew about my crazy eccentricities, he might opt to hop back onto the single train, so I just keep those little pieces of information to myself." As a result, there's a lot of ripe material here, but the author doesn't dramatize enough of it. The most compelling scenes involve past actions, such as Sandy leaving home and Jake's mother dying; the hospital scenes, however, are the least engaging. That said, Wainland provides an inspirational story, and it's a pleasant read overall.
An uplifting, if uneven, novel about strengthening family bonds.