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Book Review: Perennials, by Julie Cantrell

October 17th, 2018 (02:06 am)

First of all, Cantrell knows how to turn a phrase. Her language is lyrical, her descriptions evocative. And I loved the Oxford, Mississippi, setting; it makes me want to visit there. But as much as I enjoyed some aspects of this book, overall it fell flat, mostly because many of the characters drove me crazy.

Fisher was too good to be true, like the heroine's love interest in a Lifetime TV movie. Lovey's parents seem to have stepped out of a Hallmark card. I liked them -- how could I not? But they were so full of preaching and platitudes. And Marian, except for her advanced age, is a stock-character holistic yoga spiritualist, full of slogans out of a New Age self-help book -- though I should add that the fact that she was in her 90s was out-of-the-ordinary enough to make her more interesting. The Dragon Lady Boss had no redeeming characteristics whatsoever. If she'd had a mustache, she would have been twirling it.

The most interesting character was Lovey (Eva) herself, and she felt more real and nuanced than anyone else in the book, by far. Her complexity was what kept me reading even as I rolled my eyes at some of the people around her.

So many plot twists I saw coming from chapters away. Could anyone read the opening passages when Lovey and Fisher are children and not know, from the moment he defends her against her mean sister, that they will end up together? And the instant I read that Marian wanted to open a free New Age Yoga center but needed a building, I knew how Lovey would resolve that problem.

The book is so preachy, with characters spontaneously erupting in sermons -- both Christian and New Age -- in a way that I found hard to believe. And the heavy-handed metaphor of the garden was repeated over and over again. OK, we got it the first time. Maybe it would have meant more to me if I liked gardening.

The end ties everything up neatly -- too neatly -- with "bad" characters abruptly reforming or just getting out of the way, and adversaries forgiving each other and becoming friends.

Overall, I felt the author let her own world view and religious beliefs get in the way of telling the story. I really wanted to love this book. But as hard as I tried, I just couldn't do it.