Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hometown Ties by Melody Carlson

Some of my favorite novels tell stories about groups of women who've formed bonds of friendship that stand the test of time. No one seems to write those stories quite as well as author Melody Carlson, and, while I still have a couple of reservations, I'm slowly falling in love with "The Four Lindas".

In "Hometown Ties" we get to know each Linda a bit better. The four girls who formed their club in grade school are all grown up now, approaching or passing their 50th birthday, and dealing with life issues we all have to face one day.

Gone are the days when their friendship was based on having the same first name. Now Marley, Abby, Janie and Caroline are finding commonalities and differences that may push them closer together...or even pull them apart.

Janie's relationship with her parents was a cold and distant bonding. For some reason her father held her at arm's length, never letting her into his life. Now he and Janie's mother are gone, as is Janie's husband. Life on her own just isn't what she'd planned for, so attention from Victor is becoming more and more coming home.

Marley still feels the loss of her marriage, even though it was an abusive one. Now single, with no possibility of grandchildren, she's feeling more alone than before. She's glad to be back with the Lindas once again. But has her move back to Clifden dried up her ability to paint once and for all?

Caroline truly thought taking care of her mother in the final stages of Altzheimer's would help her feel she'd done something to make up for all of the pain in their lives. Seems she may be in over her least, that's what she's thinking as she hunts for her mother...who's holed up on a shrimp boat, sans clothing. Is this what her life has become?

Abby seems to, of all the Lindas, have the perfect life. At least, until she found out Paul was on the verge of an affair. And that he doesn't believe in her, especially when it comes to her dream of owning and operating a bed and breakfast inn. Does anyone believe she's capable of more than a picture-perfect home and good food...that she has a head for something more?

Each book peels back a layer of each character, and with such a wide variety of backgrounds and passions, there's someone we can identify with. I'm still bugged about Marley's son, Ashton. His homosexuality seems glossed over and 'eh'...which it isn't.

I'm waiting to see where Melody takes us next before I put my final stamp of reader approval on this series. For certain, the writing is engaging and the characters are entertaining. I just want more than that in my reading material...I want it to make a difference in a positive way...without being preachy.

So, I'm giving "Hometown Ties" three out of five bookmarks, with a potted plant for a charm. The scenes where the women work on a surprise oasis for Caroline made me long for friends like maybe it's a four out of five....we'll see.

My thanks to Jeanne Wynn for my copy.

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