What does it mean to start one’s life over? What does it look like when you try to escape the past? Linda Holmes explores these questions in her intelligent, thoughtful debut novel, Evvie Drake Starts Over.
Evvie Drake is packing up her car to leave an emotionally-abusive marriage when she gets a call from the hospital that her husband has been injured in a car accident. She is widowed that very night, but doesn’t feel that she can confide the real state of her marriage to anyone, not even her best friend Andy. A year or so later, Andy arranges for Evvie to become a landlady by renting out the apartment at the back of her too-large-for-one-person house. Her renter is a former baseball pitcher named Dean Tenney whose career ended abruptly and far too soon when he came down with the “yips,” which means he suddenly can’t pitch anymore for no reason that anyone can discover. Evvie finds it easier to confide in a stranger, and the relationship between Evvie and Dean develops in a thoughtful and tender way.
This novel is set in a small town in Maine, and references to the ocean and lobsters abound. It’s intelligent without crossing the line into clever; it’s thoughtful without crossing the line into melancholy. This book has a quiet power all its own. Evvie is a flawed yet sympathetic protagonist, and the pacing of the story is deliberate and unfolds the story at just the right speed. Is it a romance? There’s “just enough” of a romance plot here. It’s not the sole focus of the story, but the novel wouldn’t be the same without it.
Other thought-provoking reads include:
Rules for Visiting by Jessica Francis Kane
The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer
The Farm by Joanne Ramos