Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Blood Orange by Drusilla Campbell

Dana Cabot escaped her lonely childhood and married the man of her dreams. Now her husband David, a football quarterback turned defense attorney, is a workaholic. Most of Dana's life is focused on their beloved 7-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has special needs. Dana is trying to salvage bits of her former life, when she was a doctoral candidate in Art History. Then Bailey disappears from their home. Dana suspects it happened because of David's involvement in a high profile, controversial case -- he's defending a man who may have brutally murdered a child. Their marriage is unraveling, and Dana is hiding secrets of her own.

This author writes skillfully, using artful turns of phrase which I enjoyed. She effectively explored the ambivalence felt by a mother who's put her own life on the back burner to care for a high-needs child. Many women will be able to relate to Dana's struggles with motherhood. I could truly feel how lovely and delightful Bailey is, and also how exhausting she can be. Drusilla Campbell also did an outstanding job of showing us the point when the seismic cracks in a marriage begin to open and everything begins to crumble.

All these strengths, along with Dana's passion for early Italian Renaissance art and a few glorious glimpses of Florence, sweetened what was otherwise a disappointing mystery/thriller. For one thing, I found both Dana and David supremely unlikeable. I really wanted to connect with them; these are parents faced with the possibility of losing a beloved child forever -- how could they not find a place in my heart? But I found David incredibly manipulative and controlling. Both he and Dana are tremendously selfish, and I found their values shallow. I tried to at least care about Dana, but as I watched her do one monumentally stupid thing after another, my empathy withered. As for the mystery itself, it revolved around several twists which were entirely too predictable, plus several implausible scenarios.

On the positive side, Campbell is a talented writer, and she explored the themes of loss, betrayal, guilt, and forgiveness in a compassionate way. She also offered several interesting secondary characters, including Lexy, a recovering alcoholic and professional model turned priest. She's an intelligent character with an edge, and I enjoyed her reflections on faith and what it means to do Christ's work. How many of us are willing to take an unflinching look at ourselves and require ourselves to truly love our fellow humans unconditionally? That takes tremendous strength, and it's at the heart of spiritual growth.

While this book, as a whole, didn't work for me, I was impressed with this author's abilities and will probably read more of her work. And I hope she'll return to the themes of motherhood, marriage, guilt, and forgiveness in other novels.

Read More Reviews: Book Addiction; The Lovely Wife

Rating: 3

5- Cherished Favorite4 - Keep in My Library3 - Good Read2 - Meh1 - Definitely Not
For Me

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