Alone since her mother's death, Jill Wagner believes she's found the perfect partner in Cade Olmstead when he bursts upon her life--idealistic, handsome and motivated. Read more...
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Alone since her mother's death, Jill Wagner believes she's found the perfect partner in Cade Olmstead when he bursts upon her life--idealistic, handsome and motivated. He dreams of becoming a congressman and changing the world, and Jill is ready to stand at his side for the journey. When she discovers she is pregnant with Cade's baby, Jill accepts that she must put college on hold for the sake of their new family. But it won't be the only sacrifice she'll have to make.
Relocating to the Olmsteads' New England farm, Jill is excited to welcome the baby surrounded by Cade's family. But life on the farm isn't the idyllic retreat she'd imagined. Cade's brother Elias, a soldier newly returned from Afghanistan, is struggling to recover from the experience of war, and Jill is unsettled to find the family home is no less a battlefield than the one Elias left behind.
When unexpected tragedy strikes, Cade is afflicted most of all--his idealism quickly transforms into bitterness and paranoia. Before she knows it, Jill's once-ambitious husband becomes a desperate man willing to endanger them all in the name of vengeance...unless Jill can find a way out.
If you love emotionally charged, issue-driven novels, don't miss "Inside These Walls" and "The Kingdom of Childhood," available now.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-08-20
- Reviewer: Staff
In her second novel (after The Kingdom of Childhood), Coleman again explores how ordinary lives can quickly devolve into tragedy. Despite how well things seem to be going for optimistic college students Jill and Cade, Cade is reluctant to introduce Jill to his family. But when Jill gets pregnant, to save money they decamp to Cade's family home in New Hampshire, where Jill encounters family feuds, insular politics, and a militia mentality. She forms a fragile friendship with Cade's brother, Eli, a hard-drinking vet suffering from PTSD after serving in Afghanistan. Jill, whose mother was an alcoholic, tries to help Eli, but her efforts seem in vain. Meanwhile, an increasingly resentful Cade retreats into his own paranoid revenge fantasy. Coleman's portrayal of a deeply damaged soldier is genuinely sympathetic and complex. But, despite chapters told from both Cade's and Jill's viewpoints, motivations (Cade's abrupt and jarring shift toward anti-government rhetoric; Jill's passive acceptance of her fate) remain murky, but chapters that adopt Cade's mother and sister's perspectives add layers to this hazy tale of family loyalty gone horribly awry. Agent: Stephany Evans, FinePrint Literary Management. (Oct.)
Bringing new life into a shaken world
Rebecca Coleman’s haunting second novel, Heaven Should Fall, begins innocently enough: Jill Wagner’s otherwise affable and charismatic boyfriend, Cade Olmstead, does not want to introduce her to his family. Still reeling from the death of her own mother, Jill can’t help but feel rejected by this uncharacteristic refusal. But when the young college couple discovers that Jill is pregnant, Cade concedes that their best option is to retreat to the Olmstead family farm.
Once they arrive, Cade’s reasons for keeping Jill away become dismally clear. In place of the domestic togetherness she has been craving she finds a toxic environment choked with long-buried secrets and bitter animosity. Cade’s family tiptoes around the reminders of the past to simply make it through each day—mother Leela, father Eddy, sister Candy and brother Elias are all beyond the reach of Jill’s good intentions.
With her due date looming, Jill takes a special shine to Elias, a combat veteran who’s come home riddled with the horrific memories of his time in Afghanistan. But not even the government Elias pledged his life to can help him, and as he sinks deeper into the cruel depths of post-traumatic stress disorder, Jill notices an unsettling change in Cade’s behavior as well. When an unspeakable tragedy descends upon the family, she fears it will be just enough to push Cade over the edge.
While the Olmsteads’ grim story is told through the separate perspectives of the family members themselves, only the voice of Jill resonates with uncorrupted clarity. The landscape Coleman has created here is strikingly bleak. Instead of bells and whistles, she relies on substance and atmosphere to build her story; her language is subdued, but the words cut deeply. She crafts each character with a love that is genuine and sometimes fearful, pulling helpless readers headlong into their struggles. As the heartbreak spreading through this family rots away to reveal something sinister, it is impossible to turn away.