88+/100 (8.8+ out of 10)
The Eves by Grace Sammon is a classically-styled novel that follows a bereaved and grieving woman named Jessica who is seemingly entering the twilight of her life. Little does she know that there are new people to meet and more adventures to be had.
What's incredible about this book is that, despite Jessica being in her 60s, we easily mistook her for being much younger. This is because she eventually shows the spunk and adventurous nature of a 30 or 40-year-old. And, perhaps, that's the point. Jessica is a powerful example to everyone that your life isn't over until it's over. Just because Jessica is considered “elderly” by societal standards and just because she doesn't have the strong relationships with loved ones that she once had doesn't mean that her story is “over.” In fact, it has only just begun. New chapters—a new saga—await her.
So, let's get a bit into it. when we first meet Jessica, it is very apparent that she's a broken woman who has just suffered the trauma of losing her children and her husband. Ok, well, it's not exactly what it sounds like. Actually, we had to reread this a few times to figure out what actually happened. Apparently, her children aren't dead and they aren't children. However, Jessica takes it as if both of these things are true. You feel like they're dead, and you feel like they're children. And, let's face it, our babies are ALWAYS our babies regardless of their ages, so we can empathize there.
Jessica was involved in a trial in which she felt compelled to testify against her ex-husband, James, the father of her kids. James, apparently, was rolling like Walter White from Breaking Bad: trafficking illegal substances and committing various kinds of fraud. Jessica's children, Ryn and Adam, both testify as character witnesses for their dad on the opposite side while also threatening to cut their mother out of their lives if she goes through with it.
Well, she goes with her moral compass and goes through with it, losing her connection with both her children and her husband.
Jessica finds solace only at the bottom of a bottle, particularly Vodka. She becomes a miserable alcoholic to stops taking care of her home, health, and hygiene.
Fortunately, Jessica has a very strong-minded friend named Sonia, a lifelong people-fixer, who adopts Jessica as her “project.” Sonia picks Jessica up by her britches and tells her that there's more ahead of her than she realizes. Sonia gives us a few of the book's best quotes including the apparent thesis: “we can write our own story, change the ending.” Sonia may be a candidate for “Best Supporting Character.”
She encourages Jessica to go to Maryland and spend some time in a historic estate known as “the Grange” or the “Grange House” where she can spend time with the women who live there.
Much of the story involves Jessica hearing, documenting, and learning from the various stories of the women in the Grange House as well as the men who visit them. These women include Deidre, probably our favorite, Elizabeth, Jan, Ali, Sydney, Tia, and Erica. They range in age from 15 to their 90s. Jessica also encounters some men of experience in the process including Malcolm, Roy, and Tobias.
Tobias teaches Jessica that “This life is not a dress rehearsal. It's a journey and I think our job is to do it well along the way.”
So, why is this book not quite a 9/10? Let's address this. This book can be very slow. There's a lot of meandering, it seems. The author is an educator, clearly, and seems to feel the need to teach the reader about anything and everything—whether they're relevant to building a coherent plot or not. This is essentially the equivalent of world-building.
The author attempts to craft worlds upon worlds, it seems—giving us detailed descriptions of Maryland, Washington D.C., Norway, Ireland, and even Africa. The book seems to skip from here and there, never fully focusing on one thing. This makes it come across as disjointed. You get information about the Civil War, information about slavery, information about LGBTQ+ issues, information about flowers, information about elephants, information about Irish culture, information about Hopi culture, information about the constitution, information about racial issues, information about Shakespeare, information about the annexation of Puerto Rico—ok, maybe not that—but you get the point. There is such a staggering amount of information and teaching in this book that it becomes cloying. It becomes more like a collection of Wikipedia articles than a story about human beings doing human being stuff, and what becomes depressing is that the plot doesn't really move along until about 200 pages in. By then, you've already asked yourself if you want to keep reading or not.
All the small talk, we know, is supposed to be character-building, but it comes across like busy work, stuff we have to get past to get to the good stuff—the meat of the plot. You really, really need to be patient and get through the weeds to get to it.
This book is actually very comparable in subject matter to Gary Lee Miller's Finding Grace, one of the best books we've ever read. Both books involve a woman leaving home and going on a trip to meet new people and discover herself, learning more and more as she gets deeper into her tour. The thing is, Finding Grace was a tighter-told story where every single character was memorable and likable. Everything that happened seemed to matter, it wasn't there for decorations or to go on a tangent about a social issue or two or three or four or five. That book legit made us cry multiple times, it was that powerful. So, we had a strong reference for comparison.
All in all, this is a worthwhile book with a lot to say. It's solidly-written and definitely shows the enormous amount of knowledge and research that went into it. You might actually love it, especially if you're into classical women's literature or calmer, more mellow stories.
Check it out on Amazon!