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Crescent Blues Book ViewsHarper Books (Paperback), ISBN 0060012897

Neophyte author and long running British arts and media journalist Jojo Moyes owes a huge debt of gratitude to famed French author, Honoré de Balzac. Moyes -- clearly inspired by Balzac's touchingly truthful words about motherhood (i.e., "The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness") -- brings the volatile dynamics of a mother-daughter relationship to tumultuous light with her lengthy literary debut, Sheltering Rain.

Book: jojo moyes, sheltering rain
Sheltering Rain begins with a brief preliminary prologue about the novel's strongest character, Joy Ballantyne -- an independent, provincial woman with a penchant for country life. Then Moyes shifts gears to focus on the present-day relationship between the tough as nails Joy and her estranged granddaughter, Sabine.

In order to sort out the messy details of her personal life, Kate, Sabine's mother, sends her precocious 16-year-old to stay with her grandparents in Ireland. This doesn't set well with Sabine, who'd rather spend the summer in London with friends and the adorable Dean Baxter than with maternal grandparents she hardly knows. As a result, Sabine arrives on her grandparents' rural Irish estate with a rather large chip on her shoulder.

However, once Sabine learns to accept a simple, less contemporary way of life -- specifically few social gatherings, no Internet, and little hot running water -- she starts to enjoy herself. In spite of their arguments, Sabine forges a bond with her somewhat recalcitrant grandmother. Once she understands Sabine's need to uncover her family's past, Joy makes a point to get to know her mature, yet emotionally vulnerable granddaughter.

Book: jojo moyes, windfallen
But when Sabine's grandfather suffers a near fatal stroke, and Kate returns home after a tempestuous 16-year absence, Sabine's new, more amiable relationship with her grandmother virtually crumbles. Will Joy realize in time that in order to be part of her granddaughter's life she must also bridge the gap between herself and her daughter Kate?

Moyes, a verbose writer with a flair for vivid, never-ending descriptions of horses, hounds and hunting, devotes much of her tedious 437-page novel to poor storytelling and inept pacing. Moyes plays up Kate's pent-up hostility with her mother but never explains Kate's childhood or her relationship with Joy prior to her pregnancy. Instead the author of the recently released Windfallen chooses to "tell," rather than "show," why Kate ex-communicated herself from the Ballantyne family.

Long, boring and clichéd, Sheltering Rain will likely leave most readers yearning for the work of Rosamunde Pilcher or Maeve Binchy. Bottom line: if you crave family drama complete with well-written, picturesque prose and memorable characters that effortlessly become old friends, reach for The Shell Seekers or Tara Road. Save the torturous ramblings of Sheltering Rain for the dusty, dilapidated shelves of the discount bookstore.

Tiffany Sanchez

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