Renee at It’s Book Talk began this meme as a way to share old favourites, as well as books that were published over a year ago. Not to mention those that are languishing on the to be read pile for whatever reason.
Today I’m returning to Spare Change by Bette Lee Crosby. First published in 2013 it’s the first in a gritty, small town family saga.
Set in the 1950s Spare Change is a story from differing viewpoints. Olivia Westerly is quite happy being independent and living on her own, working at the telephone exchange. With no desire to get married, much less have children, her life continues comfortably in the same way it has for years. Until, that is, she meets Charlie Doyle. It doesn’t take long for Charlie to woo her and almost before she knows what’s happened they are married and Olivia is happier than she ever thought possible. But Charlie dies on their honeymoon and Olivia is inconsolable.
Ethan Allen is eleven years old living with his parents on a farm. His mama, Susannah, is flighty and totally undomesticated, she just wants to go to New York City to be a singer, it’s all she talks about. But Ethan’s daddy, Benjamin, has no intention of allowing it. Between the fighting, making up and general disregard from his parents Ethan does’t have much of a childhood or upbringing. When horrific and violent events occur he runs to the only person he can think of, the grandfather he has never met.
This is a gritty and, at times, tragic story with very distinctive, well-formed and colourful characters that will surely pull the reader into their lives. It was easy to get involved in the story and sympathise with the characters, especially Ethan. He is very credible given his life up to that point and the developing relationship between him and Olivia is touching.
I like the way the characters are all woven together to create an engaging story with humour, sadness, some violence but also hope and trust. The first person perspectives at the beginning of each chapter is a nice touch, like eavesdropping on that character’s thoughts.
There’s an unmistakable theme of good versus evil running through with a thread of Christianity, not in a preachy way, showing the best and worst of human nature. The epilogue may not appeal to all readers but for me it rounds the story off nicely.
I don’t suppose there’s a person walking the earth who doesn’t now and again think, “If I had the chance to live my life over, I’d sure as hell do it differently.” When you get to a certain age and realize how much time you’ve wasted on pure foolishness, you’re bound to smack yourself in the head and ask, What in the world was I thinking? Everybody’s got regrets, myself included.
Some people go to their grave without ever getting a chance to climb out of that ditch they’ve dug for themselves; others get lucky. Of course, the thing about luck is you’ve got to recognize it when it walks up and says hello, the way Charlie Doyle did. But that’s a long story, and to understand it you’ve got to start at the beginning……Olivia Ann Westerly
Small-town gossip never much bothered Olivia Westerly. As a single career woman, she’s weathered her share. It’s easy to ignore the raised eyebrows over her late-in-life marriage to Charlie Doyle. But after he drops dead on their honeymoon, the whispers are salt on her raw grief. Especially when an orphaned, eleven-year-old-boy shows up on her doorstep, looking for the grandfather he never met.
Behind Ethan Allen Doyle’s wary blue eyes lie heavily guarded emotions that unexpectedly tug on Olivia’s heart, and she finds herself wanting to win his trust. But when his murderous secret comes looking for him, the entire town embraces the lonely widow and desperate child to show its true heart when danger threatens one of its own.
A heartwarming tale of love, loss and unexpected gifts, featuring a woman you’d like to call friend, a boy you will ache to hug, and a town you wish you could call home.