Trudy sews pillowcases at a linen factory and helps her mother, Claire, care for her 4-year-old niece, Mercy.
Claire pines for both Trudy’s father, who left when Trudy and her sister were small, and Trudy’s sister, Tammy, who repeated the family pattern and left her own small child with Claire and Trudy. It’s the 1970s in Preston Mills, a town that had to be moved to make room for the St. Lawrence Seaway. Trudy’s life consists of caring for her permanently sad mother and her niece and avoiding the bullies at work. Then she meets Jules, a stuntman who has come to town to drive a “rocket car” up a ramp, a half mile across the river, and onto an island. Trudy's boring, lonely life is jolted both by her new love and Tammy's reappearance. Claire, too, finds her miserable existence upended by hope. In addition to this tangle of relationships, another of the book’s complicating factors is that it is divided into parts, chapters, and sections. Marston (The Love Monster, 2012) gives the sections flip titles, like “Because you just keep making things up until they seem true” and “Because sometimes you feel like a sheet on a clothesline," which read a bit like blog-post titles. The characters speak to each other in ways that seem more contemporary than '70s-like, as well, and Trudy is a distant main character. However, this is certainly unlike other hard-luck love stories, and despite some improbabilities (such as Tammy’s boyfriend, Fenton, having a seizure in front of the family and no one getting him medical care) and the bleakness that is woven through the characters’ lives, it's an entertaining novel. Jules’ dream is certainly uncommon, and it’s hard not to root for decent, loyal Claire and tragically clueless Fenton. And Mercy, who is still young enough to have a positive view of her fellow humans, even those related to her.
An unusual story of both familial and romantic love, the strange dreams humans have, and the cost and benefits of loyalty.