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Safe Within: A Novel (Unti Jean Reynolds) by…
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Safe Within: A Novel (Unti Jean Reynolds) (2012)

by Jean Reynolds Page

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I couldn't put it down!!! The characters seemed so real to me that I felt that I was reading my local newspaper. I got so involved I finished the book in one day. The storyline could be about any rural family with deep misunderstandings allowing life to be disrupted for years. We don't know in the end how this particular family sorted it all out but the reader was left to surmise that each was a whole lot better in the end than at the beginning. ( )
  lillituth | Aug 4, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
”Now there was nothing to do. The empty stretch of hours ahead frightened her. She’d pledged till death, but it didn’t end there. Love didn’t end anywhere. It simply endured the absence of the beloved.”

Safe Within is a book about end of life issues, as Carson comes back home to North Carolina to live out his last weeks. No; this book is about widowhood, as Elaine struggles to live in a world with half of herself gone. No; this story is about a son who hasn’t found himself yet. No; this is about an elderly woman whose son has died, leaving her with decades of regrets. Yes, this novel is about family. A family real with love and hurts, memories and wishes, hope and heartache.

A lakeside treehouse in North Carolina is the unlikely abode built by Elaine’s father, and in which she grew up. It is there they return for peaceful lake view talks as time dwindles out. Now back in their old hometown, Carson’s mother comes for visits with her son, while still holding prejudices against her daughter-in-law and grandson.

Jean Reynolds Page offers a real slice of life in the pages of this book, presenting characters whole in their personae, in a setting vivid, with a story slow and captivating. Loved it. ( )
  countrylife | Jul 23, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A sad story of a man dying of pancreatic cancer who is brought back to his hometown area for his last days. His wife and son have no relationship with his mother and the book centers around trying to bring their lives together, I enjoyed the book tremendously - would recommend it. Really loved the character development in this book.
  MargaretdeBuhr | Jul 16, 2012 |
Carson is dying of pancreatic cancer when he asks his wife Elaine to take him back to the small North Carolina town they both grew up in and to the quirky treehouse on the lake that is Elaine's family's home. Going home transports them back into the small community with its gossip and undercurrents. It means Elaine and Mick, Carson and Elaine's adult son, will have to face Carson's mother Greta, nearly blind but still holding a grudge against them, and that the past will surround them every step of the way at a time when they most need love and compassion.

Elaine and Mick haven't spoken to Greta in more than twenty years. The source of the rift is that Greta has never accepted Mick, believing, despite Carson's assurances to the contrary, that Mick is not Carson's son. Although her animosity towards this stubborn old woman hasn't waned, in the wake of her beloved Carson's death, Elaine tries to extend an olive branch to Greta, knowing that it is what Carson would have wanted. After all, she and Mick are all that remain of Greta's family. The one thing that she draws the line at though, is explaining the truth surrounding the rumors over Mick's paternity, insisting that that information was between she and Carson and not for public consumption. And although she wants to do the right thing by her mother-in-law, Elaine is still prickly, defensive, and struggling with forgiveness.

As Elaine is trying to negotiate a tentative truce with her mother-in-law, Mick is feeling rudderless and completely adrift. He's met a girl who used to idolize him when she was small but she's 18 and beautiful and as interested in him as ever now. As he wonders if he can pursue something with her, rumors from the past about an old girlfriend, Kayla, rise up to challenge him. Kayla, who was of mixed race and whose family was extremely poor, was his first great love but also the girl who made him face the worst of himself. Although she is long dead in a car accident, he is still coming to terms with the hurt he caused her and the reality of who he was then. That her sweet six year old little brother might in actual fact be her son instead of her brother has sent him reeling, questions about Kyle's paternity and his responsibilities adding to his uncertainty about his life and future.

Greta, mother-in-law and grandmother, so certain of her convictions, is fighting battles on many fronts. She is in a dispute with her neighbor over her land. He wants it so he can expand his alpaca operation and she has no desire to sell, not even entertaining a single thought for his continued offers. She is perfectly content living with her long-time friend Mattie, who is a sort of housekeeper, companion, and lately Greta's eyes as well. Having Mattie's family living in the guest homes out back means that Greta always has company and she doesn't have to look too closely at her determination to shun her daughter-in-law and only grandson. But then Mattie has a stroke and her family moves to town, and although they are concerned about Greta, Mattie is their more pressing concern, forcing Greta to entertain the notion of relying on Elaine and Mick.

Flipping between the past and the present, the narrative fills in Elaine and Carson's relationship and marriage, the foundation of the so many loving and now much mourned years, fleshing out Carson in a way that would only be possible through other characters' views if the entire novel took place after his death. Elaine, Mick, and Greta, as main characters are all sunk in their own grief but their faltering attempts to right their worlds in the wake of Carson's loss are realistic and human. They are each multi-faceted and their relationships with each other are complicated by history and feeling. The plot is intricate and Page weaves the many threads together deftly. Her writing is true, beautiful, and detailed and she has captured masterfully the deep ache of grief as it stands alongside continued living. Having tapped into a small town setting, she has placed her characters at the mercy of the secrets and gossip that have eaten at the edges of their lives for so many years. But with the whimsical treehouse above the lake, she has also given these characters a nest of imagination and uniqueness in which to find safety, forgiveness, and the ability to move forward with hope. Engrossing and frequently humorous, this compassionate look at living after a loved one's death amidst the tangle that family can be is a wonderful read. ( )
  whitreidtan | Jun 27, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received Safe Within in exchange for a review. I found that I was having trouble reading for any length of time, in the beginning. It wasn't that the story was bad, it just seemed to be too slow to unfold. When I kept at it I found the story got moving, for me, about one quarter of the way through. At that point, the story came to life and I found that I was thinking of excuses to sit and read, not the opposite. The story is about death, but it is also about the living and the lives that need to be rebuilt after a death. While the book was sad, it had many light, funny times. I felt that the underlying theme was that gossip can take on a life of its own and destroy many lives. When a situation is seen and taken out of context, it breeds curiosity and when no one sets the record straight from the onset, it can be used as a weapon for someone wanting to hurt another.

Carson has lived a wonderful life, with a loving wife & son. He also has a mother he loves deeply but his wife, son and mother do not get along. By way of rumor and gossip, Greta, Carson's mother has held a deep seated anger toward his wife, Elaine and through that she has chosen not to have a life with her only grandson, Mick. Carson has always asked his mother to trust him and to let Mick in, but she will not. Carson has cancer and upon his death Elaine wonders if his mother will be out of the picture for good. But, that and actions beyond her control bring them closer instead of further apart. While all are dealing with the grief of losing a father, husband or child they also have their own lives to rebuild, a lost past to overcome and the knowledge that righting a wrong can sometimes be too much to deal with. ( )
  WillowOne | Jun 19, 2012 |
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Epigraph
Dedication
To Joyce Ross and Ralph Reynolds.
And as always . . .
With love, for Rick
First words
Elaine pulled into the lot beside the Roseville Municipal building.
Quotations
Now there was nothing to do. The empty stretch of hours ahead frightened her. She’d pledged till death, but it didn’t end there. Love didn’t end anywhere. It simply endured the absence of the beloved.
His existence had seemed synonymous with hers for three decades. Panic set in when she thought not of his absence but of her own existence beyond it.
“You must feel amputated,” Wallace said, going to the heart of things as he always had.
“With all the phantom sensations.”
“Do you want to talk or do you want to be distracted?”
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061876941, Paperback)

A novel of how family happens—whether you like it or not

Elaine and Carson Forsyth have returned to the tree house—Elaine's childhood home, a cabin nestled high in the branches of two oaks beside a North Carolina lake—where forty-nine-year-old Carson has chosen to spend the waning days of his life. As Elaine prepares for a future without her beloved husband, their solace is interrupted. Carson's mother, Greta, has set loose a neighbor's herd of alpacas and landed herself in police custody. While Carson, remarkably, sees humor in the situation, Elaine can only question what her obligations are—and will be—to a woman who hasn't spoken to her in more than twenty years.

In the wake of Carson's death, Elaine and their grown son, Mick, are thrust into the maelstrom of Greta, the mother-in-law and grandmother who never accepted either of them. Just as they are trying to figure out their new roles in the family, Mick uncovers unexpected questions of his own. A long-ago teenage relationship with a local girl may have left him with more than just memories, and he must get to the bottom of Greta's surprising accusations that he's not Carson's son at all.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:36 -0400)

Returning to her childhood home in Lowfield, North Carolina so that her husband can live out his final days in his favorite place, Elaine Forsythe gets more than she bargains for when her husband's mother, who hasn't spoken to her in 25 years, arrives and stirs up trouble.… (more)

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