Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Book Review: 'The Taste of Air' by Gail Cleare

Massachusetts author Gail Cleare leads and writes a fascinating life and story. She is highly regarded as a writer for newspapers, magazines, Fortune 50 companies and AOL. Her award-winning ad agency represented the creators of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The lady has a clear eye for what draws or focus and she distills that clearly in THE TASTE OF AIR – one of the better novels that explores the interstices of Family: the special blood ties, the shared humor, and the secrets and lies and shadows we all own.

One of the reasons Gail’s book works so well is the accessible, down to earth language she uses to mold her creative prose. The opening of her book rattles windows and allows suggestions of secrets that will bloom as the book unfolds – ‘Nell ~ 2014 Her day began with reassuring rituals. Make the beds, start a load of laundry, empty the dishwasher. After lining up shiny crystal tumblers inside the glass-fronted cabinets, she filled the upper shelves with neatly nested plates, bowls, and cups. Her finger found a chipped edge, and she tossed the imperfect saucer into the garbage. It was expensive china, but she would order a replacement. The house always looked fresh, with cut flowers on the dining room table. It smelled of roses and sandalwood. When Nell walked through her beautiful, decluttered, well-organized home, balance and serenity followed. She had pulled on a jacket and was typing a grocery list on her cell phone when it rang. Nell didn’t recognize the caller ID but answered just in case, as she knew good mothers did. “Eleanor Williams?” Not the school. They never call me that. “Yes?” She didn’t feel like being patient with a telemarketer and reached for the off button. “Mrs. Williams, I’m calling about your mother, Mary Ellen Reilly.” An elevator bell sounded in the background, and a voice was talking over an intercom. Nell frowned and put the phone back to her ear. “What about her?” “This is Hartland General Hospital in Vermont. Sorry to call with bad news, but your mother is in our intensive care unit.” This had to be some kind of weird mistake. “You must have the wrong person. My mother lives in Massachusetts. I just talked to her yesterday.”

The synopsis Gail provides places the map before us: ‘A simple phone call disrupts Nell Williams’ well-ordered life. Her mother, Mary, is in a hospital in Vermont. But her mother is supposed to be safely tucked away in an assisted-living facility in Massachusetts, so Nell can’t fathom why she would be so far from home. After notifying her sister, Bridget, Nell hops on a plane and rushes to her mother’s side. There, she discovers that her mother has been living a second life. Mary has another home and a set of complex relationships with people her daughters have never met. When Nell and Bridget delve deeper into their mother’s lakeside hideaway, they uncover a vault of family secrets and the gateway to change for all three women.’

At books end Gail endears us with an Author’s Note – ‘There is a real place called Hartland, Vermont. I have borrowed the name and surrounding landscape for this story, but the town and its inhabitants are totally imaginary.’ This is that kind of book, on so real and important that it bears at least a second reading – after the first sinks in. Grady Harp, January 17
This book is free on Kindle Unlimited.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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