In The Rest of Her Life, Laura Moriarty delivers a luminous, compassionate, and provocative look at how mothers and daughters with the best intentions can be blind to the harm they do to one another.
Leigh is the mother of high-achieving, popular high school senior Kara. Their relationship is already strained for reasons Leigh does not fully understand when, in a moment of carelessness, Kara makes a mistake that ends in tragedy -- the effects of which not only divide Leigh's family, but polarize the entire community.
We see the story from Leigh's perspective, as she grapples with the hard reality of what her daughter has done and the devastating consequences her actions have on the family of another teenage girl in town, all while struggling to protect Kara in the face of rising public outcry. Like the best works of Jane Hamilton, Jodi Picoult, and Alice Sebold, Laura Moriarty's The Rest of Her Life is a novel of complex moral dilemma, filled with nuanced characters and a page-turning plot that makes readers ask themselves, "What would I do?"
"Powerful, original, and utterly absorbing, Moriarty's novel will stay with the reader long after the final page is turned." - Booklist.
"The intriguing supporting characters are limited by not-very-likable Leigh's POV, but Moriarty effectively conveys Leigh's longing for escape and wariness of reckoning." - Publishers Weekly.
"Moriarty's honest novel about an ordinary family whose life changes in one extraordinary moment resonates like an emotional tuning fork." - Jodi Picoult.
"Like Kate DiCamillo's Because of Winn-Dixie and Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees, Laura Moriarty's first novel, The Center of Everything, owed its success to the immense likability of a young female protagonist. Mixing just the right combination of solemnity and cheer, Moriarty turned a potentially sappy coming-of-age tale into a full-on charmer with the voice of her 10-year-old narrator, Evelyn Bucknow of Kerrville, Kan., who courageously traversed a hard-luck childhood without any false moves. In her second novel, the author has achieved an even more impressive goal, inspiring compassion for a character unblessed with Evelyn's immediate appeal Moriarty's novel shows that it is not literature's job to be uplifting, or even to be beautiful. It is literature's job to say yes, to every corner of every life: yes to disaffected characters like Leigh as well as to winsome ones like Evelyn Bucknow; yes to grief as much as to solace; yes to wrongdoers as well as to the wronged; and yes most of all to "our weak attempts," as Leigh acknowledges, "to feel each other's burdens." - The Washington Post - Donna Rifkind.
"Well-written, convincing and impossible to put down." - Kirkus Reviews.
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Rated of 5
What do you do when the world crashes down on you?
It took a lot of pages before I began to enjoy this book, but, in the end, it was thought provoking and ended much better than I initially thought it could.
The characters: Mother, Leigh, a teacher. Father, Gary, college professor. Teenage daughter, Kara. Preteen son, Justin. Daughter's friend, Willow. Miscellaneous friends and colleagues of parents.
Mother/daughter and, to a lesser extent, father/son relationships are what this book is about. Neither is explored fully, but are explored around a snapshot in time.
Kara and her friend Willow are riding in Kara's car after school one day, when Kara hits and kills another teenager. The ensuing story is about what you would expect. The important thing is how the characters interact.
Predictably, the mother and daughter, who already have problems, experience some serious alienation. Less predictably, but as a predictable mirror image, the father really can't relate to his son, who isn't very tough or 'manly'. As Gary protects and guides Kara through the aftermath of the accident, his distance from Justin grows, as does Kara's isolation from Leigh, and Leigh's and Gary's from each other. Leigh has expressed concern for the victim, who was a former student, and her mother, and feels Kara needs to take responsibility for her actions, though she isn't sure exactly what that means. Gary is simply protective and considers little else.
Kara's journey through the aftermath of the accident, and how she determines her responsibility and resolves it, is a step up from the introductory chapters of the book. And Leigh, who is not particularly lovable, especially early in the book, becomes much more interesting. Even Gary learns a bit about relating to Justin.
It ends better than it begins. Keep reading.
Laura Moriarty was born in Honolulu in 1979. She earned a degree is social work before returning for her M.A. in Creative Writing at the University of Kansas. She was the recipient of the George Bennett Fellowship for Creative Writing at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. She currenly lives with her daughter in Lawrence, Kansas, and is at work on her next novel.
The Center of Everything, 2003
The Rest of Her Life, 2007
While I'm Falling, 2009
The Chaperone, 2012
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