The Author Visits Reviews During the FallReview by Kristin Lundgren
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Cheryl in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
This is Cheryl's debut novel. During the Fall is a story of Jenny and Alex, two high school sweethearts who meet for the first time at the beginning of the book, and then go on a whirlwind of life, through love, college, marriage, kids, perseverance and loss. It is also a story of how two people can push apart and come back together, and it is this push-pull that drives the story, and eventually allows them to come together in a bond of trust and faith. Their's is a relationship of balancing - his love for Jenny with his love for a professional career in hockey. Hers for her love of Alex, and her desire to let him follow his dreams, but yet wanting him and a life together. How they solve this is what happens to real people - a give and take.
The story is really in two parts - the first, the story of their life, the second, leading us through a loss. At times the narrative is filled with beautiful imagery, showing the author's command of a scene, and how she understands the importance of feeling through words. Their love is real, and goes through the normal bumps in the road that any couple does, and that is refreshing. This is no starry-eyed teen two-some, but a real couple, grounded in life, but at times lifted up by dreams.
But the two main issues for me are the dueling twin POVs, one from each, and the lack of backstory in the first half - the rushing through the flotsam and jepson of life that makes up a couple's daily life. We are treated to the bullet points in their relationship, but not always the ones you might expect, like their first date, their first kiss, all those are missing. The things she focuses on are more the turning points, or the areas where Jenny has concerns or doubts, or Alex. The sentences were declarative in many cases, making it like a double auto-biography. He said. She said. Not so much about how they felt for much of it, unless it developed the plot-line.
Going from POV to POV also means some backtracking, or even jumping ahead in the timeline, and occasionally the timeline suffers. Some things don't just ring true - it seems like they got married and had their first child in their mid 20s, but later, the timeline has them having their first child at 31. Small things, but they added up. What was also lacking were the support players, her mom, her brother that I didn't even know about for the first half, and his parents, except for her aunt Sally, who is rendered in wonderful vignettes. And her best friend as an adult, although that friendship is again hurried through, and a main event in her friend Julie's life is told through her telling Jenny about it in a flashback. Flashbacks were numerous, and at times I felt a bit of whiplash.
The second half of the story is very different - the pacing is slower, almost glacial at times, but this time the details are there, along with the feelings that were missing in the first half. It did become a little repetitive, especially in such a short book. It would have been better for me as a reader to expand the front half, and add more depth, so that we can connect to the characters better, especially in the second half. Although her writing is such that we connect anyway.
Fans of story driven fiction, and who look for the parameters of love, faith, and loss heartache, will be drawn to this quiet book. Although faith plays a central role at the end, in the beginning it is only a background for one of the characters, and I believe non-believers as well as lovers of Christian fiction would find this story appealing.
My rating: 3 stars
The Author Visits Reviews During the Fall Giveaway
CHERYL MURNANE lives in a suburb of Boston with her husband, two children, and dog, Mitzi. When not working on her next book, you can find her behind the styling chair at her salon, Accents on Hair, or juggling her children’s after school activities.
After a single semester of college, Cheryl chose to step off the more traditional path and pursue her own individual approach to life. She acknowledged the authenticity of her inner self and has used her intuition to help deepen her connection to her more artistic side. She combines her creativity and artistic connection with her passion for people through 21 years of hair styling and writing.
Cheryl has written daily in journals, but she viewed her upcoming birthday as a way to challenge herself with writing her first novel and “During the Fall’ was born. Having completed the life-long goal, Cheryl loved the writing process.
As a practitioner of yoga, Cheryl tries to live a disciplined life balanced by faith and family. Cheryl loves to be outdoors; running, walking the dog, playing with the kids, or spending time tending to her perennial flower garden.