Saturday, August 28, 2010

"The Fortune Quilt" by Lani Diane Rich

Carly McKay's life is going just fine until she produces a television piece on psychic quilt maker Brandywine Seaver and receives a quilt with an enigmatic reading telling her that everything is about to change. Carly blows off the reading until it comes true: Her boss runs off with all the station's assets, leaving her jobless; her best friend, Christopher, proclaims his (unrequited) love for her, leaving her friendless; and her mother, who deserted the family seventeen years ago, returns, sending Carly into a serious tilt...Convinced it's the quilt's fault, Carly races down to the small artists' community of Bilby, Arizona, to confront its maker, and ends up with an unexpected friend in Brandy - and in Will, the laid-back painter who rents the cabin next door. With quirky new buddies and no more deadlines, Carly starts to enjoy her reimagined life - until her old one comes calling. Now Carly has to decide what parts of each world she wants to patchwork in...and how much she's willing to leave to fate.

This is not the sort of book I would just pick up off the shelf, and if you follow this blog at all, I think you already know that. This was returned by a patron quite a while back, and there was just something about it that made me turn it over and read the back cover. I still didn't think it sounded like "my" kind of novel, but again, something made me put it on a list for possible perusal at a later date.

As they say, don't judge a book by its cover!

Yes, this is teetering on the edge of chick lit, and yes, some of it is quite funny. But there's a lot of serious soul-searching here, too, and Rich strikes the right balance between the two genres to bring the reader a fine novel. I really liked Carly, and could very much relate to her getting "Towered" as Brandy calls it (the phrase coming from the Tarot card "the Tower", which indicates change). I was very impressed that when Carly's mother shows up after all these years, she's brutally honest about her feelings, leading to her abrupt departure from Tuscon. And yes, maybe it's a little corny that she blames the quilt, but when the you-know-what hits the fan, don't you look for anything that might make it right again?

The characters are well-developed, and there were some genuine surprises along the way. I thought the romance between Carly and Will built at a nice pace, and the "split" wasn't due to any contrived misunderstanding but to Carly's very real fears of commitment, perfectly understandable given her own upbringing. Rich also does an outstanding job of describing the beauty of Arizona, really making the reader feel the desert heat, the cacti, etc.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised (and impressed) by this book, and from what I understand, the author has more available. I plan to check them out soon!

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