For me, one of the things that makes a fiction book good, is if it makes me think. If I stop and pause, relate it to my life, take away something, that elevates a book. Susan Schoenberger’s A Watershed Year: A Novel was one of those books.
The main character of the story, Lucy finds herself redefining her life after losing her best friend (and should be lover) to cancer. You see his illness from her side, what it’s like to love someone so much that you simply refuse to give up and let them die. You see the illness from Harlan’s side, what it’s like to be 33 and dying.
After Harlan dies, Lucy receives an email from him. He has set up a program to send her an email at the same time and day every month. This allows him to say the things to Lucy that he was never able to say in person. In one of the emails, Harlan talks about what a wonderful mother Lucy would be. This idea takes hold in Lucy and she begins to look at adoption, eventually pursuing the adoption of a 4 year old Russian boy.
As an adoptive mother of 3 girls from Vietnam, I completely related to the task of adopting and trying to build a relationship with an older child (mine were 5, 8, and 9 when they were adopted). The trust that has to build, the relationships that have to develop.
Besides having strong, believable characters, the novel is also very well written. In one part, Lucy is contemplating how other’s see you. How you can never really know how other’s perceive you.
“But year and years of self-assessment in mirrors and photographs gave you only the barest clue of how others perceived you; of how your mouth twisted slightly just before you smiled, of how you had a tendency to clear your throat before speaking, of how your hair flew out in back when you rode a bike, of how you peppered your speech with “you knows” when you were nervous, and how it seemed as if you were trying to hard when you wore lip gloss.”
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and recommend it.
Susan Schoenberger’s website: www.susanschoenberger.com