Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 42.
- Review Date: 2009-12-14
- Reviewer: Staff
When a narrator opens her tale by declaring, “I lost my sanity buying frozen apple juice,” the reader knows she’s in for a witty ride. The narrator is Leah Thornton, a 27-year-old Southerner, English teacher, and middle-stage alcoholic. She’s got her reasons: her only child died of SIDS and her sexual relationship with her husband, Carl, is so troubled their marriage is devolving into a standoff between hostility and frigidity. Leah is steered into rehab by her BFF Molly, which kicks off transformation through growing honesty, self-awareness, and large doses of wry humor. Allan draws many strong, quirky minor characters: Leah’s rehab roomie, Theresa, one of a rehab unit’s worth of addicts of all manner of substances; Leah’s wry obstetrician, Dr. Nolan. A few supporting characters—Carl’s wealthy parents—feel more caricatured than characterized, and the largely unsympathetic portrait of Carl makes the reader wonder why the marriage is worth saving at all. A few major developments toward the book’s end cry out for greater resolution. But Leah is fascinating, complicated, and above all funny. This nonformulaic look at the spiritual redemption of a life is a bright start; debut novelist Allan is one to watch. (Feb.)