Nicole Baart' debut novel is a bittersweet coming of age story that has left me with mixed feelings. While I enjoyed the story, I'm left feeling a little...hollow.
Julia DeSmit's life is highlighted by loss. Her mother walked out on her when Julia was only a little girl. Her father passed away when Julia was just a young teen. And the love of her life chose another to be the love of his.
The only constants in Julia's life are her grandmother...and loss.
With her heart broken and her direction uncertain, Julia strikes out on her own, determined to make an identity for herself not marked by loss and tragedy, but by success and creativity.
But we can never out run who we really are, and eventually Julia catches up with herself and makes a pivotal decision that finally does change the course of her life.
Julia's journey isn't a satisfying one, unfortunately. The way the story ends, it's more like "Girl, Interrupted". A sequel is already in the works, which is good, because the character is so real to me, I almost feel as if I'm leaving her hanging on the last page of the story.
And I'm left wondering...what is out there for Julia? Can she rise above this one critical choice and find what she's been searching for all her life? And where does God fit into her life? Does He fit in at all?
There are hints of a conversion, but only shadowy traces of one. No bright and shining moment. There are hints of a happy ending, but not traditional, by no means. I'm left feeling...like there should be more. Kind of like I feel in real life sometimes...
Maybe that's why this book leaves me so unsettled. I fear this is real life for so many young women out there in our world today...they are searching for something more, and don't always know where to find it. And they are making life altering decisions that leave them...where?
Julia and I find ourselves in limbo. But I must say, I'm SO glad Nicole didn't go for the cheap and easy resolution for Julia. The girl deserves better...even Thomas isn't good enough for her, in my book!
Oh my word. She. Isn't. Real. But that's how much I've invested in this story. And that is powerful writing.
So, I'm reserving my ultimate opinion on this one. For now, I give "After the Leaves Fall" four out of five bookmarks, with a bonus baby chick charm and a harvest color tassel. I'm holding out on going higher until I see the final outcome; and I'm reserved only because I'm not satisfied.
The writing is obviously powerful...I want more for Julia, and she's not. even. real. But the story isn't finished, and I can't say whether that is a good thing...or not.
I have a instinctive feeling it is a VERY good thing...we'll know when the sequel hits shelves summer of 2008...yikes!! That's a long time for Julia and me to wait! Hmmm, I wonder if I email Nicole now..........