Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Within Arm's Reach

Within Arm's Reach by Ann Napolitano
4/30/24; 352 pages
Random House

Within Arm's Reach by Ann Napolitano is a highly recommended literary family drama featuring three generations of an Irish-American family. First published in 2004, this was Napolitano's debut novel and showcases her early skillful ability to create finely drawn characters and bring them to life.

Catharine, the matriarch of the Irish-American McLaughlin clan, is approaching 80 years-old. Catharine has the gift of visions and has conversations with deceased relatives, a gift of her heritage. She has 6 surviving children after losing three. Kelly, 56, is her oldest surviving daughter, is married to Louis and mother to Lila and Gracie. Now Gracie is pregnant and Catharine is sure this baby, this start of the next generation will help bind the family together again. Right now the whole family keeps a tight rein on their emotions. This new addition may change everything. 

The narrative unfolds through the point-of-view of six different characters : Gracie, Catharine, Louis, Lila, Kelly, and Noreen Ballen (Catharine's nurse). These are all fully realized, exquisitely written characters who came to life on the page. They are all portrayed as real individuals, with different opinions, flaws, strengths, and conflicting emotions.

The writing is excellent in this portrait of three generations of a family. Within Arm’s Reach demonstrates how interconnected the members of a family can be and how they inherit more than they realize from their ancestors. I enjoyed everything about this novel except for the fact that it was left open ended. Certainly it showcases the developing talent of a gifted writer. It was a pleasure to read this debut novel from 2004 since I loved and adored both Dear Edward and Hello Beautiful. Thanks to Random House for providing me with an advance reader's copy via NetGalley. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

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