Friday, August 19, 2011

Review: The Silence Between Waves by Audrey Weis Smith

ISBN #: 978-1463692940
Page Count: 206
Copyright: 2011

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Celia Minor faces a difficult decision when her dying mother begs Celia to help her end her life. As Celia struggles with deciding between her mother's life and death, Celia must also face her own problems when the same symptoms of her mother's illness begin to surface. The story unravels as Celia, her younger sister Letta, and Celia's seven-year-old daughter Livvy deal with Celia's decisions and the ensuing emotional aftermath.


Celia (Cecelia): Main character. Cries a lot.

Letta (Juliet): Celia’s sister. She is pregnant. In case you forget this detail, you will be reminded at least once per page where Letta’s character is present.

Rennie: Celia’s husband.

LuAnne: Celia’s mother. Is dying from cancer, lives in a nursing home. May also have dementia but this is never made clear, and she seems extremely lucid in her one scene at the beach.

Livvy (Olivia): Celia’s oldest daughter and possibly the smartest person in the book. Book has her age as 8 and 7, so let’s split the difference and say 7 ½.

Samuel: Celia’s son.

Alexis: Celia’s younger daughter

Jeff: Letta’s husband. An attorney, but apparently not a very good one.

Sam: random man who assists Letta with a flat tire, object of her fantasies. Not to be confused with Samuel, who is a child, because that would just be weird.

Judy: obnoxious neighbor who plants the idea in Celia’s brain – not purposefully of course – for Celia to divorce her husband

Merv: writer Celia meets at a conference

Francine: writer Celia meets at a conference

Kathy's Review:

As an aspiring author myself, I can only imagine what it’s like to put a book out there into the reviewing world and have people judge you for it. I hope that someday I will be able to do the same thing, and that I will have tough enough skin to handle the criticism. I preface my review with this because, well …

This book is in serious need of an editor. It is crying for it – literally. There are so many mentions of crying that I began to underline each time a character cried and kept a tally. For a book that centers around a woman’s decision to kill her dying mother, you expect it’s not going to be all sunshine and rainbows. But these characters go from having a normal conversation in the kitchen to sobbing uncontrollably with the flick of a switch. It’s like the book has PMS with all the mood swings going on.

An editor would be helpful, too, in removing some of the repetitive words and phrases in the writing. Examples are gingerly, plopped, rolls her eyes. These phrases are seen frequently enough that you could have a drinking game around them and be pretty sloshed at the end of the book.

The character development is basically non-existent. Smith attempts to change perspectives between Celia, Letta and Livvy, which could have been interesting. But the third person perspective is clunky, and although we hear the characters’ inner dialogue, it would have been more dynamic to hear their individual voices give their own perspective. Celia and Letta are such flat and unlikeable characters that the chapters mainly revolve around their own internal dialogue, followed by tears, followed by an emotional outburst at their spouse and/or each other, followed by more tears. Livvy’s chapters make feeble attempts at capturing a child’s perspective on the adults’ drama, but even here, the third person perspective misses the essence of a child.

The vocabulary during Livvy’s chapters is too advanced for a 7 ½ year old, and Livvy’s actions are repeated (e.g. she rolls her eyes multiple times – “Livvy rolls her eyes again” is an actual sentence in the book.) If you have to have a character do the same thing twice, find a different action for them to take, or describe it in a different way.

The characters also seem to be completely oblivious to anyone else’s feelings. Three times in the story, someone visits or calls Celia right after she has been an emotional basket case and doesn’t seem to acknowledge her tears. Now I know after I cry, I’m blotchy for a good 10, 15 minutes.

As far as the plot of the book, it could have been interesting. But it meanders through the three perspectives and ends up nowhere. We are stuck in dull conversations between the characters that mostly do nothing to advance the plot, and ultimately result in one or more of the characters sobbing, dabbing at their eyes with a tissue, etc.

The premise has promise – Celia makes a decision to help her mother die on her terms. She is dealing with her own health issue which causes her to make the (very unlikely) decision to abandon her husband and three kids, so they will not have to bear the financial burden of the health issue – which she believes to be cancer. But guess what? She hasn’t been to a doctor to even verify this fear! She just acts on it anyway. What I felt was missing from Celia, among other things, was any acknowledgement of guilt for both her act with her mother, and leaving her family. It’s just a big “woe is me” routine that wears off after the second chapter.

Letta and Livvy’s chapters do little to advance the plot. I think both of these characters could have been made more interesting by having them both independently discover Celia’s secret. I kept hoping for some big twist with these two characters that never came.

The story wraps up in a sloppy fashion with absolutely no repercussions for Celia. Ho hum.

But there’s hope. This story is fixable, with, as I said before, the help of some major editing. I’m talking about start-from-scratch kind of editing. One thing I’d like to see is the character of LuAnne, Celia’s (late) mother, be developed. A major miss, in my opinion, is that we don’t get to see the scene where LuAnne allegedly tells Celia she wants to die. So it becomes unclear whether Celia made that up.

Also, there are periods of really good descriptive prose. I noticed that the wrap-up paragraph of each chapter usually was well-written.

So, in its current form, I would not recommend this book. However, I do recommend that the author find an editor who can help her turn this story around.

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