Some have a bumper crop of zucchinis right now, and I have a bumper crop of books! There are so many promising candidates that are clamoring for attention on my review shelf, but try as I might to read them all, I am just not allotted the column inches to give coverage to each and every book.
Still, I was feeling a sense of accomplishment when I sat down with "Running Secrets" this week - the novel has been patiently awaiting my attention for some time. But it wasn't until after I finished reading and sat down to write this review that I discovered that a sequel, "Biking Uphill," had just been published a couple of weeks ago.
It turns out that West Seattle author Arleen Williams is working on a trilogy - there's one more book to come - so at least I'm getting the first book covered before the final one comes out!
"Running Secrets" is the story of a friendship that blossoms between a young woman who has been hospitalized after a failed suicide attempt, and the Ethiopian home health care worker who has been hired to assist during her recuperation.
Chris is a flight attendant whose big sister Beth had died in a traffic accident when they were still both teenagers. Their relationship had been close and particularly important to Chris, who had never found favor with her parents. In the decade since Beth's death, Chris has felt increasingly alone in the world.
After fantasizing about a number of ways she could kill herself, she tries to put an end to her unrelenting anguish by driving over an embankment at high speed. Instead she wakes up in the intensive care unit of a hospital with a badly broken body.
Some new people come into Chris's life as a result of the "accident." One is paramedic Jake Bowmer. Another is counselor Peter Bentley. And most important is Gemi - the middle-aged immigrant nurse.
Although Gemi, too, has suffered profound losses in her life, she has lived long enough to develop a worldview that encompasses much more than Chris has ever imagined. Yet Gemi also faces stumbling blocks she has to overcome.
In the unusual friendship that develops between these two, Chris and Gemi help one another summon the courage to engage in more of what life has to offer.
"Running Secrets" is not the most artfully written book - one might have wished for more rigorous copyediting, for starters, and the story line sometimes veers off into the maudlin or the preachy. While the "secret" alluded to in the title might have had some shock value in the 20th century, it seems to be pretty ho-hum in this day and age.
But there are pleasures in this story, too. Williams' focus on sensory details - colors, smells, sounds - will heighten the reader's awareness of everyday circumstances that ought not be merely taken for granted.
And the celebration of both cross-cultural and trans-generational friendships provides an outlook that is relevant and valuable.
THIS WEEK'S BOOK
"Running Secrets," Arleen Williams