Monday, August 15, 2011

My take on: Coming up For Air

Sometimes it takes a life-changing moment to wake you up. It makes you examine your life. What you did wrong, and what you did right. Ellie Calvin in Coming up For Air by Patti Callahan Henry is re-examining her life. The death of her mother Lilly is a time of great sadness, but also a time of reflection.

Ellie discovers her mother's diary. A journal where she buried the deepest parts of herself. Every New Year's Eve Lilly wrote in her journal. To the outside world, Lilly was this picture of perfection and organization, and wanted to ensure her daughter married into the right family. On the inside, Lilly was living with a broken heart. In her early 20s, she found her passion in fighting for civil rights and she found love with "Him." You don't learn who this mystery man is until the end. It certainly wasn't who I suspected. But ultimately, Lilly had her heart broken by "Him." She settled for second-best with Ellie's father, all things Ellie didn't know about her mother. Did Ellie ever really know her mother? How could she keep this part of herself hidden? Ellie would have had a better understanding of her mother had she know all of this. Instead she saw her mother as this cold perfectionist, who cared more about appearances.

Ellie found love with her college boyfriend Hutch, but her mother forces her to doubt that relationship. History seems to repeat itself. Ellie and Hutch drift apart. I found more fault with Ellie in this instance. Ellie sabotages their relationship, but doesn't realize it until it's too late. Ellie also settles with her husband Rusty. Their daughter seems to be the only good part of their marriage. Rusty is the bad part. He is emotionally abusive. If it isn't his way, he yells, pouts, acts like a child and then apologizes. When Ellie expresses her unhappiness he dismisses it. If it doesn't revolve around him, it's not important.

Ellie goes in search of the truth about her mother, which reunites her with Hutch. Their interactions are such a breeze. He listens to what Ellie has to say. There is genuine affection there, despite Hutch's unwillingness to open his heart to Ellie again. Their journey to learn more about Lilly awakens Ellie. She becomes stronger. She can stand up to Rusty. She express what she wants, instead of always acquiescing to Rusty. She matters too. It makes you wonder why Ellie ever let her mother interfere? To me, Hutch represented what Lilly lost. If Lilly couldn't have her cake and eat it too, why should Ellie? I was thoroughly wrapped up in the story. A fast-paced family drama that you should put on your shelves!!

Rating: O.M.G. !!!

Notes: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (St Martin's Press) at the request of the author's publicist (Wunderkind PR) in exchange for an honest review.


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