04 February 2011

Making Waves by Cassandra King

Paperback, 304 pages
Published April 7th 2004 by Hyperion (first published 1995)
ISBN:  0786887931 (ISBN13: 9780786887934)
original title:  Making Waves

In a small Alabama town in Zion County, life is finally looking up for 20-year-old Donnette Sullivan. Having just inherited her aunt's old house and beauty shop, she's taken over the business. Her husband, Tim, recently crippled in an accident, is beginning to cope not only with his disability but also with the loss of his dreams. Once a promising artist who gave up art for sports, Tim paints a sign for Donnette's new shop, Making Waves, that causes ripples throughout the small southern community. In a sequence of events-sometimes funny, sometimes tragic -- the lives of Donnette, Tim, and others in their small circle of family and friends are unavoidably affected. Once the waves of change surge through Zion County, the lives of its people are forever altered.

Cassandra King was born in Alabama, where she has taught English and writing. Her second novel, The Sunday Wife, was published to terrific reviews and acclaim. She now lives in South Carolina's low country with her husband, Pat Conroy, whom she met when she asked him to write a quote for Making Waves.

My thoughts:

Well, this was an enjoyable enough book, but I got to the end and was left unsatisfied. As with previous books by Cassandra King, I enjoyed the writing style a lot. I really like the way she tells the story from different perspectives in order to weave a more complex & compelling story. However, in this case, I didn't find any of the characters particularly likable. Understandable, yes. Likable, not so much.

Let's start with Tim: He was a good looking jock with a neglected talent & passion for drawing. But he had no self motivation. He pursued what others told him to pursue, but couldn't seem to make his own decisions.

Taylor: Sarcastic, prone to stir up trouble, and as it turns out, mentally & emotionally unstable. He loved Tim as a friend, and more, and Tim was caught up in the confusion of adolescence. He was weak, covered his weakness in bravado, and his Aunt Della covered for him as well. Only Donnette seemed to really have his number.

Donnette: Manipulative, ignorant, suspicious, and with a fairly simple understanding of the world. Definitely not stupid, and though she misconstrued a lot due to her sheltered life, she understood Taylor. She was also determined to have her man to herself, and would do whatever she needed to so that would happen. She was the perfect stereotype of a small town Southern woman.

Aunt Della: A frail, old woman who was much to forgiving of Taylor's weaknesses and vices. She loved him like her own son, but raised him in a completely undisciplined way. He was devoted to her, and she to him, which was good, since they were all each other had.

Sonny & Ellis: Vile, ugly, vengeful, rude and manipulative, and ultimately stupid. This is a very, very bad combination.

Daddy Clark: He was a mean, bigoted son-of-a-bitch who used his "religion" to back up how he behaved. He had one view of the world, and anyone who didn't see things his way didn't see things the right way. If he couldn't get you to see things his way, he just forced his will on you. There was no other option.

Aunt Opal: A mean, bigoted alcoholic.

The various other minor characters were not more likable, and while the overall story was engaging, I came away from this book with fairly ambiguous feelings overall. Perhaps the most frustrating part of the story (for me) was the idea (voiced often by Donnette) that some friends and family are completely dispensable. Cat, for instance, who should have made a real appearance in the story. Charlotte, for another. Overall, some additional character development might have rendered this a much more compelling & satisfying read. King has done this in other novels, which made this read disappointing for me.

3 Stars

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