Monday, January 23, 2012

Blessings - Anna Quindlen

Summary:  Blessings, the bestselling novel by the author of Black and Blue, One True Thing, Object Lessons, and A Short Guide to a Happy Life, begins when, late at night, a teenage couple drives up to the estate owned by Lydia Blessings and leaves a box.  In this instant, the world of the estate called Blessings is changed forever.  The story of Skip Cuddy, the Blessings caretaker, who finds a baby asleep in that box and decides he wants to keep her, and of matriarch Lydia Blessings, who, for her own reasons, decides to help him, Blessings explores how the secrets of the past affect decisions and lives in the present; what makes a person, a life, legitimate or illegitimate, and who decides; the unique resources people find in themselves and in a community.  This is a powerful novel of love, redemption, and personal change by the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer about whom The Washington Post Book World said, "Quindlen knows that all the things we ever will be can be found in some forgotten fragment of family."  (Summary from book - Image from )

My Review:   I’ve reviewed two other books by Anna Quindlen – Black and Blue and Every Last One – and thought they were marvelous. Her writing is always exquisite, effortless, and richly detailed without being boring or pretentious.  Blessings, the most peaceful piece of property in Mount Mason, and the people who lived there leaped from the page and set up shop in my head at the first opportunity.

Lydia Blessings is quite the character – literally and figuratively. At eighty years old, she is used to doing exactly what she wants and very set in her ways; she is frustrated with the changes that comes with old age and doesn’t like intrusions, especially from those of a younger, less refined generation. When Lydia hires Charles “Skip” Cuddy to work on her land, she, and all of town, assume it’s only a matter of time before he’s sent packing like all the rest.

Skip Cuddy doesn’t quite know what to do when he finds a newborn baby abandoned outside the garage where he lives and works as the caretaker of the Blessings estate. Lydia Blessings, his fastidious employer and nosy landlord is sure to disapprove. Still, Skip carries the little bundle up to his room over the garage and his world is never the same. Skip transforms into such a nurturing, devoted father figure, that I was half in love with him before he even figured out the importance of formula. His quiet tenderness and protective nature were unbelievably endearing (and, to be honest, a little hot). I loved watching Lydia and Skip’s characters evolve over the course of the story – Skip embracing his role as father, the blossoming connection between him and Faith, and Lydia’s slow acceptance and eventual love for both of them.

While I enjoyed this book, I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I did her others. Her writing was as enchanting as ever, but I closed this book with a much heavier heart. It might be a pregnancy thing, but I desperately wanted a certain life for Lydia, Skip, and Faith. I shouldn’t have been surprised by an ending that ripped my heart out (sunshine-and-butterfly endings aren’t really Quindlen’s style) but I ached for the loss of their happily-ever-after. Also, Quindlen doesn’t shy away from profanity if it lends a character authenticity – and some of Skip’s friends were genuine potty-mouthed morons. I understand where she’s coming from, but I could have done without the language.

At its heart, Blessings is a novel about how love, even fleeting, can change us for the better. While I wouldn’t recommend this book to more sensitive readers, I would recommend it to everyone else.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: Scattered profanity of all varieties, some crass language, and occasional references to past sexual relationships.

Sum it up: A bittersweet exploration of love, transformation, and loss.   

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