Thursday, June 13, 2013

Book Review: The Way Back To Happiness

The Way Back to HappinessAuthor: Elizabeth Bass
Publication Date: May 28, 2013
Publisher: Kensington

No one could blame Bev Putterman for becoming estranged from her sister. No one but Bev, anyway. Growing up, Diana was difficult and selfish yet always their mother's favorite. And then came the betrayal that took away the future Bev dreamed of.

Yet if Diana caused problems while alive, her death leaves Bev in a maelstrom of remorse. She longs to provide a stable home for Diana's fourteen-year-old daughter, Alabama. But between her commitment-phobic boyfriend and her precarious teaching position, Bev's life is already in upheaval without an unruly teenager around.

All Alabama knows about Aunt Bev is what her mother told her--and none of it was good. They clash about money, clothes, boys, and especially about Diana. In desperation, Alabama sets out to find her late father's family. Instead she learns of the complicated history between her mother and aunt, how guilt can shut down a life--and most important, how love and forgiveness can open a door and make us whole again…

How sad could a person feel before their heart just stopped? She faced every day feeling weak, wrung out, wondering why she was here. Why she was anywhere.

Gladdie mumbled skeptically, but Alabama was too appalled by her own thoughts to agree or disagree. My God. For a moment there I almost liked her.

At the funeral home, she’d bent down and kissed her mom, crying into her mouth as their lips touched. If only it had been a fairy tale, like one of the stories her mother had read to her over and over when she was little, the one where a kiss restored life. It happened in the movies, too. You’d think someone was gone, and then eyelids fluttered open, music swelled, and miraculous reunions happened.

Bev Putterman never reconciled with her estranged sister before her death, and now Diana has left Alabama, her fourteen-year-old daughter in Bev’s hands. Bev has enough on her plate already while trying to maintain her love life and hold down a teacher career, she feels that she has no place for an unruly teenager. However, Alabama goes to live with her Aunt Bev and only knows what she has heard her mother say. Alabama doesn’t have a nice opinion of her Aunt Bev conjured up in her head, but Alabama soon learns what tore them apart and what could have made them whole again.

I wish this book would have had a bit more happiness, seeing as how it is part of the title. The tone was very dreary and although I understand why, I just wish I would have gained more of a positive reaction after reading it. I felt that Bass, the author, captured the emotions of a fourteen-year-old very well. Alabama displayed a lot of mixed emotions, angst, and of course some good pent up teenage attitude. I loved seeing Alabama mature and learn to make decisions and form opinions of her own, not based on what she knew from her mother.

I loved Bev’s character. At first I was wondering which sister I wasn’t going to care for, and I learned quickly that the sister I didn’t care for was Diana. Her character was very destructive and only caused problems wherever she went. I did love watching their story develop in front of my eyes and Alabama’s. Readers will be taken on a personal journey through Bev’s and Diana’s life as sisters. The theme of this book, in my opinion, was forgiveness. I felt a tear roll down my face at one point, and I really wish that I would have had more positive feelings towards the end of the book.

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Kensington in exchange for my honest review***

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