Sleeping in Eden: A Novel by Nicole Baart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The premise of this novel seems at first be a mystery with a few emotional entanglements thrown in for good measure, but it really is so much more than that. It explores young love and survival of marriage, the truth and consequences inherent in the expectations that we set for ourselves and others, and how the choices we make can connect us to others both near and far.
Lucas Hudson is a small town Iowa doctor with a struggling marriage; Meg Painter is a small town teenager struggling with being a teenager. Through parallel story lines, we get to know these two characters with seemingly nothing in common.
Many of the emotions and lost connections that have led the current state of Lucas' marriage can be drawn back to the disappearance of Angela Sparks. As a social worker, Angela was the first case that Jenna Hudson took on when moving to the small town of Blackhawk, IA - she grabbed Jenna's heart, and took a piece of it with her when she disappeared. Eight years after her disappearance, Lucas is drawn into a mystery that he feels can change his world when Angela's father commits suicide and the remains of a young woman are found buried in the clay floor of his barn right beneath his hanging, lifeless body. Absolute in his mind that he has found Angela, and that this discovery can alter the course of his wife's grief, and in turn his marriage, Lucas consumes himself with putting a name to the bones.
In a different world, Meg Painter is going through the growing pains of being a teenage girl. She falls in love with her best friend, Dylan. Her neighbor, Jess, falls in love with her. Lies, jealousy and missed opportunities cobble together the path that each of their lives take, shaping the adults that they will become, and sending Meg directly into the path of Lucas' investigation.
These characters are well written and developed with surprising detail in such a short period of time, and the situations are raw and believable. Unfortunately though, I felt like the amount of time devoted to character development pulled away from the story in some cases. Several areas felt as though the actual situation was rushed through in order to get back to the emotional details, and the culmination of the story a bit anti-climatic after such a beautifully written and intriguing build up.
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