Thursday, September 16, 2010

review: april & oliver by tess callahan

Tess Callahan’s debut novel has this borderline icky relationship between April and Oliver, who grew up believing their fathers were half-brothers rather than stepbrothers. The two are not romantically involved, but it’s clear there are feelings there; even the woman both call Grandma seems to want them together. I had difficulty getting past the unsettling feeling that gave me. Fortunately (and yet, unfortunately), the two are in other relationships. The unfortunate part is that April’s boyfriend is abusive (and just might have killed his ex) while Oliver and his fiancĂ©e are just kind of boring and probably not well-suited for each other.

There’s a lot here, but the book centers on how messed up April is as a result of having parents who shouldn’t have been parents. Not long after her abusive father puts a teenaged April to work in his bar, she’s molested by the co-owner. Despite April’s protests to Oliver, Callahan seems to hold up this ongoing abuse as the catalyst for April’s current behavior. So there’s that issue, then there’s the reason why Oliver is back in town to setup this uneasy hint at romance in the first place: April’s brother died in a car crash. The family decides Grandma must not be told because of her fragile health, but you just know the truth is going to come out at the worst time (and it does). And Oliver has his problems too, though he seems content to ignore them and take the easy path that he’s already established (law school and marriage). There was just a little too much to adequately address in a novel with a lot of unhappiness in just over 300 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Grand Central Publishing.

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