Juliet in August by Dianne Warren

July 25, 2013

juliet in august Plot summary (from the publisher): Juliet is a blink-and-you-miss-it kind of town—a dusty oasis on the edge of a vast stretch of sand. It’s easy to believe nothing of consequence happens here, but the hills vibrate with the rich stories of its people: Lee, a rancher afraid to accept responsibility for the land his adoptive parents left him; Norval, the bank manager forced to foreclose on his neighbors; Willard and Marian, a shy couple beyond middle age, fumbling with the recognition of their feelings for each other; Vicki, a mother of six struggling to keep her chaotic household afloat. And somewhere, lost in the sand, a camel named Antoinette.

Juliet in August unfolds over the course of just one night and day in the lives of its characters. Their stories intersect and overlap as the entire spectrum of human comedy and heartbreak is refracted through their little struggles and deeper concerns. With wit, thoughtfulness, and unforgettable characters, Juliet in August confirms Dianne Warren as a powerful new talent.

Warning: Spoilers below!

Liked:

  • Most of the characters and story lines were interesting, so I didn’t mind the constantly changing scenes and POVs. Often in books like this, there’s only one really strong, engaging character or story while the rest are fluff. That wasn’t the case here, so kudos to Warren.
  • The characters felt like real people to me. They said things and did things that I could easily see my friends, relatives, neighbors, and coworkers doing. This made the book infinitely more compelling and enjoyable.
  • I liked Willard and Marian the best, I think. There was something very poignant about their love story that drew me in right from the beginning. The scene where Marian made Willard the mint drinks was wonderfully painful to read. I could feel Willard’s anxiety and worry that Marian was going to leave him, and I ached (as she must have) when he just suddenly took off and left her there. I’m glad they got together in the end.
  • I had mixed feelings about Vicki, which I chalk up to being a good thing. After all, very few real people are all good or all bad, right? On the one hand, she did have 6 kids to take care of by herself, which would put anyone to the test on a daily basis. On the other, she was kind of useless (as Blaine said) because of her inability to focus. One random trip into town (after Blaine expressly told her not to go) turned into an entire day shot to hell as one unexpected event led on to another and another. Where does the time go, she asks at one point. Where, indeed. And yet, the family’s financial struggles struck a chord with me, and made me want to scream at Blaine to check out cash advances online or SOMETHING to get the family going in the right direction.

Disliked:

  • I might have missed it, but did the older cowboy from the opening scene (the 100 mile race) ever figure into any of the later stories? I know Lee completed what was essentially the same journey, but was there any other connection to that first scene? If not, then what was the point???
  • I thought the town of Juliet itself would play more of a role. Unfortunately, I didn’t really get a strong sense of setting from the author. Yes, the small-town vibe was there. But it was very generic and could just as well have been Podunk, USA as Canada. In fact, whenever the author took a moment to remind us that the story was set in Canada, it kind of jarred me out of the reading experience. Warren did nothing to set this town apart.
  • Shiloh was annoying — and not in the deliberate, teenage way that Warren probably intended. I just didn’t like him at all and couldn’t sympathize or empathize with anything he was going through.
  • The Lee story line was probably the most boring for me. I wasn’t really moved by his memories of his adoptive parents or the discovery of the post cards his birth mother sent. Maybe I’m just heartless!

Rating:

I was surprised by how much I ended up liking Juliet in August by Dianne Warren. This is the kind of book that, instead of grabbing you from page 1 and not letting go until the end, slowly draws you into the mundane routines of various Juliet inhabitants. Before I knew it, I was fully engrossed in their lives and wanted to know what would happen next — even if it turned out to be nothing more than two neighbors passing each other on the way in and out of the local hardware store. I’m looking forward to future books by Warren, and give this one 4 stars out of 5.

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