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Emily and James are a couple of 30-something lawyers living in New York, except they're not really living so much as existing, running from home to work to yoga class to book club, barely spending any time together. It's just the way it is until one day Emily takes a particularly tough call at work and realises in that moment that what she's doing isn't right. It isn't how she imagined life would be. It isn't what she went to law school for, or what she wants. And so she leaves. Fleeing the city for an altogether more relaxed place, she tells neither her work nor her husband that she is leaving, she just goes.
There's something instantly appealing about the start of this book because it's so easy to see why Emily makes this choice, the only real question being why she didn't go sooner. It's also reasonably realistic - with the money they must have banked, she could have gone pretty much anywhere but the place she chooses, somewhere she already has ties to, is the most obvious, if not the most exciting, of choices.
You can take the lawyer out of the city, but can you take the city out of the lawyer? As the story develops, Emily finds herself dragged into a new case that speaks to her personally. Throw in a former lover, his unrelenting mother, a former best friend who needs winning over once more, and a husband and workplace hot on her trail, and this might not turn out to be quite the relaxing break she had planned.
I'm not familiar with anything from Delinksy's quite extensive back-catalogue, but the publishers seem to know she's not the largest of names in the UK yet so have added the now quite popular 'Fans of Jodi Picoult will love this' boast to the cover. I can see their point: with a complex family drama, a clear legal element, a north eastern US setting is bears all the hallmarks of Picoult's work, and yet in my mind they are very different. Told only from Emily's point of view, this is a very personal story. It doesn't drift off into recollecting the past as I thought it might, especially with Jude's reappearance, though there are a few odd tangents that I didn't think added much such as the coyotes which featured far more than was necessary in my mind, the metaphor having been hammered home early on. I also found some parts of the story didn't hang together or get explored fully, such as Jude's son or indeed his reappearance in town at this time.
That said, Delinsky is undoubtedly an accomplished writer, making the book a pleasure to read. The story flows smoothly, is well paced and cuts from one line of thought to another at key moments to keep you hooked and anxious for a return to where you were - usually to Lee's story in my case. Emily sometimes seemed a little older than her 32 years but it could just have been that she was weary, worn out from the rat race. I very much enjoyed the story though I think I'd have enjoyed it just as much if it had been 50 of so pages shorter and towards the end some of the descriptions, so pleasant at the beginning, began to grate as they got in the way of the meat of the story. Overall, though, a lovely summer book which may well make you want a holiday to Bell Valley, to see the waterfalls, play with the animals or eat some of Lee's cookies, depending on where your passions lie.
This review first appeared on www.thebookbag.co.uk
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