Monday, August 15, 2011

Coffee at Little Angels by Nadine Rose Larter

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):   Phillip, Sarah, Kaitlyn, Caleb, Maxine, Grant, Melanie and Josh grew up in a small town where they spent their high school years together as an inseparable clique. But high school has ended, and they are all living their own “grown up” lives, each under the impression that their group has basically come to an end. When Phillip dies in a hit and run accident, Kaitlyn summons the others to all come back home, forcing a reunion that no one is particularly interested in partaking in.

Coffee at Little Angels follows how each character deals with the death of a childhood friend while at the same time dealing with their own ignored demons after years of separation. Events unfold as the group tries to rekindle the friendship they once shared to honour the memory of a friend they will never see again.

And here's what I thought:   I had been contacted by the author for a review of this book, and I'm so glad!   This was a really interesting story, full of engaging characters.   The story begins with Philip, right before his accident.    As you can see by the first sentences below, there was nothing special about the morning he died -- which is thought-provoking in itself.  For many people, there isn't anything special or odd on the date of an accident --- it happens, suddenly, and that's what's scary about it; it comes out of nowhere.

I liked that the author gave us Philip in the beginning, so we have an idea of who he is.  That way, when his friends come together after his death, we have a sense of him, and his relationship to these people.    Each of the other people are very distinct, and it's not quite clear how they're all in the same group as friends, because they're pretty different from one another.  However, as we get to know them, it becomes clearer.   The author gives us each character through first-person, so we experience the story through several people.  It was a bit confusing at first, to keep straight who was who, but it's an inventive way to tell a story.   I really loved some of these characters, even if they weren't super-likeable at all times, because they felt so real.   Each of them has a very distinctive voice, so experiencing the story through each viewpoint makes for a fascinating read.

The author has a very fluid, somewhat lyrical style of writing.   Example (p. 15) "Loving Sarah is like reading a particularly good book.  That pressing and overwhelming need to just devour it as fast as possible is matched only by the need to savour it slowly and completely, lest it all come to an end too soon."   Sigh.  I found myself reading this book slowly, so I could really luxuriate in the writing.    

Sometimes, something was so funny that I just had to read it again.  Example (p. 46) "Megan is wider than she is tall, and she has this strange way of looking at people like they are insane.  She reminds me a bit of a hamster and she always looks like she's smelling me.  Her scrunched up face is constantly insinuating that I shouldn't be doing whatever it is that I am doing because it makes me look like a raving lunatic.  She is probably the world's worst secretary, but she makes a killer cup of coffee, and Tammy has absolutely no worries that I will ever sleep with her."   Admittedly, some of the humor was snarky, but I enjoy that.   I actually found myself snickering to myself when I was reading certain parts, making me quite glad I was by myself, at home, when I was reading.

However, please don't get the impression that this was a funny story.  It's not, really -- it's just some of the characters' observations that are funny.   The real story is the fact that these people who used to be close, and who really aren't close any more, have come together to say goodbye to a friend.  It's a bit Big Chill-ish, but with more interesting characters (and I'm sure I could give it a better soundtrack, as well).   While I actually didn't like all of the characters, I found the way they related to each other to be interesting.   All in all, I found this to be a pretty enjoyable read.

First sentences:  I went jogging on the morning that I died.  I got up at five.  I got dressed.  I had a glass of warm water.  There was nothing special or out of the ordinary about it; it was a typical run-of-the-mill behavior for a Thursday.

Thoughts on the cover:   Actually, I not that wild about the cover, although it does reference something in the story.   And what would I choose, instead?  I'm not sure -- maybe a black and white photo of empty coffee cups on a bar?   This rag doll on the cover gives the impression the story might focus more on a child, or children, than it actually does.


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