From the jacket description:
It was the year everything changed . . .
“It made me feel better to think that we could talk, somehow, beyond the end of my life, that I could preserve my presence in some small way. And I haven’t told you everything I should have. I wasn’t finished yet, at least where you are concerned . . . “
Lucy never confessed her love to her best friend Harlan before he passed away. Two months after his funeral, she is haunted by the power of things left unsaid when she receives the first of his e-mails, arranged to be sent after his death. So begins the year everything changes – Lucy’s watershed year.
This is a beautifully written book, with complex characters, and I greatly enjoyed reading it. I especially liked the familiar setting – Baltimore, Maryland – so near my home. And I loved the main character, Lucy, a young college professor whose loss becomes the impetus for a major change in her life.
The book begins with the death of Lucy’s dear friend, Harlan, a could-have-been lover who became ill before their relationship took that next step. Out of all of his friends, Lucy is the one who cares for him in his last months, determined that he will get well. But Harlan knows otherwise, and begins to secretly pen letters to his friend that he hopes will help her in the time to come when he is gone. He arranges for them to arrive via e-mail at the beginning of each month, and when one of the letters mentions that she would make a wonderful mother, Lucy begins to wonder if she should adopt a child. Circumstances seem to begin falling into her lap, and before she knows it, she’s caught up in the whole adoption process.
The adoption itself, with all of its twists and turns, is an excellent plot that runs alongside the flashbacks into the relationship she and Harlan shared. Lucy decides to adopt a Russian child, and actually has to travel to that country to collect what she had originally hoped would be an infant, but who turns out to be an angry 4-year-old boy. I was on the edge of my seat while reading about the trip, as well as what happened upon her arrival home.
What I found extremely interesting was Lucy’s specialty at the college, where she studies and teaches the lives of the saints. I guess some of her friends found her vocation rather odd, but I liked the saintly anecdotes that were peppered throughout the chapters. At the time I read this book, I was going through some turmoil in my life, and I marked this page because of the mantra:
Grief rose inside her until it focused itself inside her throat. She took a deep breath through her nose as a prayer from Blessed Julian of Norwich came to her. It was a maddeningly bland prayer, so nonspecific that it bordered on the useless; yet somehow it always made her feel better.
All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.
A Watershed Year is Susan Schoenberger’s debut novel, and won the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition in 2006 under the title Intercession and was short-listed for the Peter Taylor Prize.
For more information, please visit www.susanschoenberger.com.
This book has been read and reviewed as part of a TLC Book Tour. You can check out the other stops of the tour [here].