, March 30, 2015
(view all comments by Sarah Gilbert)
1 of 5 stars2 of 5 stars3 of 5 stars4 of 5 stars[ 5 of 5 stars ]
Broken Homes & Gardens
by Rebecca Kelley (Goodreads Author)
4.17 of 5 stars 4.17 · rating details · 23 ratings · 21 reviews
A girl, a guy, a broken-down house. Not exactly on-again, off-again, Malcolm and Joanna are in-again, out-again: in love, out of each other’s arms, in an awkward co-living arrangement, out of the country. Their unconventional relationship is the only way, Joanna says, to protect herself from the specter of commitment, which inevitably leads to heartbreak. "When Harry Met S ...more
Paperback, 280 pages
Expected publication: April 28th 2015 by Blank Slate Press
0991305884 (ISBN13: 9780991305889)
Portland, Oregon (United States)
all editions | add a new edition | combine
...less detail edit details
Get a copy:
Mar 13, 2015
rating 5 of 5 stars
bookshelves modern-love-tales, read, this-portlandic-life, writers-i-know
status Read from March 13 to 29, 2015
format Paperback (edit)
updates view all 4 status updates
review Rebecca Kelley writes characters who are exactly as flawed and worthy of love as we are, and the cities that her characters inhabit are as flawed and worthy of love -- and passion! -- as are the people. The cities, in short, are characters too; Reno with its open pluckiness, its plain and verdant longing; Portland with its earnestness, its dripping moss-and-fern-covered trees, its stubborn belief in the possibility of pioneering in your own back yard.
Yes, there is passion here, passion for place and for sex and for love that won't ever hurt anyone. Joanna is brilliant in her possession of that moral sense women develop in their late twenties after they've seen enough relationships fail; that surely the problem is solvable through sense and independence. In some ways I see, in Kelley's work, a thoroughly modern Jane Austen; this is Sense and Sensibility, Portland style. Austen's protagonists, too, believe they can save themselves from heartache if only they can enter into all affairs of love leading with their intellect and strength of character.
Joanna has decided she can maintain control over her life -- the control she saw her mother lose more than a few times -- by setting ground rules, by never believing in a love that can last forever. By agreeing upfront to end a relationship the moment right before it "gets messy." She, Joanna, will never fall prey to that moviescreen moment, the one in which the protagonist locks herself away in her apartment to subsist on ice cream and tears for weeks! Joanna, with her introspective walks, her belief in problem solving, can always fix anything.
That is, at least, what she believes. The more emotionally confusing the situation, the more Joanna seeks to control herself; when things get intensely confusing, Joanna gets creative. Malcolm presents a problem; he's a love interest she never, ever wants to lose. Given her pragmatic approach to love; the intention to end things before anyone gets hurt; Joanna's only solution is to keep Malcolm her "friend." Friends, after all, never get divorced, never cheat on you. Friends you can safely love forever.
Joanna's passionate life's work, to keep herself safe from damaging heartbreak, fills this book with its delicious friendships and couplings, excursions into online dating, home improvement, vegetable gardening, and lots and lots of adventurous sex. Kelley handles the passion deftly, the way I imagine Austen would write sex scenes were she our contemporary; with intensity, truth, matter-of-factness, and humor. Sometimes she takes our breath away, sometimes she has us shaking our heads in agreement (her description of Joanna's sex with her boyfriend Nate had me laughing in familiarity; for the record, sweet love, this is long ago familiarity).
What Kelley does most is give us a romantic heroine for our times, one who defines the conventional love-and-marriage not as the safe haven at the end of a romantic journey, but as a dangerous journey itself, one for which not everyone is suited. Her protagonists believe in love; but believe it's messy and fraught with peril and are only willing to trust others as far as they trust themselves. That's not very far, so when her protagonists DO take a leap, we can't help but leap with them.