Thursday, August 13, 2015

Days of Awe

Days of Awe by Lauren Fox
Knopf Doubleday: 8/4/15
eBook review copy, 272 pages
ISBN-13: 9780307268129

Days of Awe by Lauren Fox is a very highly recommended novel about loss and change. What Lauren Fox presents us with is a year in a woman's life; a year of loss when her world and family is changing dramatically.

Isabel Applebaum Moore and Josie Abrams met as teachers at Rhodes Avenue Middle School and quickly became best friends. Izzy even introduced Josie to her childhood friend, Mark, and he and Josie married. But now Josie has died in a car crash, leaving a hole in Izzy's life. She is understandably full of grief, but on top of this, her world begins falling apart. Izzy's marriage to Chris becomes full of stress and Chris moves out, into his own apartment. Their 11 year old daughter Hannah, who is also mourning Josie, must now deal with her parent's separation. Added to this is the fact that Izzy's mother who lives nearby, has had a stroke and Izzy can see that she is aging.

Izzy's overwhelming sadness as she grieves the loss of her friend is understandable, but soon it becomes clear that she is grieving for much more than this one unexpected death and her changing family. She is grieving for the past that her mother, a Holocaust survivor, never talks about except in hints. She is grieving for the lost children of all the miscarriages she has had. She is angry at Mark for seemingly moving on way-too-quickly to a new relationship with a woman who is the antithesis of Josie. She is struggling with her previously adoring daughter suddenly turning into a teen with an attitude and insomnia.

Izzy has been a dutiful daughter, wife, mother, and best friend. These relationships have defined who she is for years. Now Izzy must come to terms with who she really is, as well as some secrets about Josie that she been unable to face.

In Izzy, Fox has created an amazing finely layered character. She can be darkly funny, acerbic, and quick witted. She feels things deeply, passionately, but not always openly. When she does comment, she has a unique voice and an individual perspective on everything.  Her struggles are universal. Her relationships are all in transition. She is seeking atonement, undertaking an introspective look at her life during this year. (The title is a nod to the Jewish Days of Awe.) I totally understood much of what she was experiencing and the depth of emotion that Fox manages to convey is very true to life.

The writing in Days of Awe is exquisite, literary, and it perfectly depicts an incredible character whose whole life is in transition. This book had me staying up way too late to finish it, the sign of a compelling story combined with great writing. I had one quibble with it: the ending was way too pat for the rest of the book. Many people liked it though, so this feeling is personal - and based on personal experience. I won't say more, but it did knock it down a star for me, until I decided I liked everything else about Days of Awe way too much to go that low.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Knopf Doubleday for review purposes.

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