The Space Between Before and After

Sunday, June 21, 2009

In The Space Between Before and After, Jean Reynolds Page again tells a beautiful story about the intricacies of family and all the secrets and misunderstandings that go along with it. Holli Templeton, divorced and in her 40's, is living a simple life when she receives news that her 20-year-old son has dropped out of college with his girlfriend. The son, Connor, has chosen to move to Texas where he and his girlfriend, Killian, stay in a trailer behind his great-grandmother's home. Holli experiences mixed feelings as she wishes for Connor to return to school in Rhode Island, but feels comfort in knowing that he will help care for his great-grandmother, Raine. Then almost simultaneously, Holli starts to realize that Raine's health may have declined more than she realized, and a crisis involving Connor's girlfriend occurs. Holli is then drawn to Texas to care for both her son and her grandmother.

Throughout this journey of caring for both the generations before and after her own, Holli reflects on her childhood and how it came to be. Holli was raised from the age of 10 and on by her grandmother, Raine, due to the falling apart of her family after the death of her mother. Jean Reynolds Page alternates chapters between Holli's adult point of view and that of her childhood self, Holly Anne, to help unravel the complicated situation that led to the anger and resentment Holli has grown up with. It isn't until Holli spends time with her grandmother, trying to accept Raine's new found friendship with Holli's stepmother, Georgia, that Holli learns not everything was as it seemed to be when she grew up. Holli then has to decide if she'll allow herself to let go of past resentments or if it really doesn't make a difference.

At the same time as Holli is dealing with her past and caring for her grandmother, she ends up having to care for her son. Killian is a difficult "daughter-in-law" and Holli fears the effect Killian has on her son. Killian is a free spirit with an attitude. She has had to learn to look out for herself since both her parents died. Holli tries to overcome her dislike for Killian while still supporting Connor and his relationship. Strangely enough, Holli also feels the slight pull to be a mother to Killian as well, as they both share the commonality of losing their mothers when they were young.

This book was so superbly written. The characters were very well developed. (The author's notes in the back confirm that she knew much more about the characters than was even revealed in the book, and this just adds to their depth). The writing flowed so easily I swept past pages and pages, but I found myself wanting to slow down and savor the often profound character thoughts. This book was one of those wonderful finds that is both plot and character driven and one that can be reflected on in many ways. Highly recommended!


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