Laura is a single mom of 12-year-old Beth, living out of the way in the fens, in a house dubbed Ninepins. Beth’s father is remarried and has three little boys, and Beth sees him every other weekend. Laura supplements her income – because her husband isn’t always forthcoming with his support checks – by renting out the pumphouse on her property. Normally, she rents to students, but now, she’s renting to a 17-year-old girl transitioning out of care. Willow is damaged but kind, and Vince, her social worker, is very invested in making sure her placement there is satisfactory for everyone. Between taking care of a preteen who is becoming increasingly surly, living with an unstable at-risk teenager, and slowly developing a relationship with Vince, Laura’s life is no longer on the once-steady ground it used to be.
Rosy Thornton’s books are so, so good. She is a master of character, of movement within a simple conversation scene, of long, slow romances. I loved this book so much. It was a slow read, in a good way, one of those books that you read for comfort and hominess. I could see myself curling up with this one in November (my quiet-read month) for a second read. It was lovely.
My only qualm was that the ending seemed too open (minor spoilers to follow in this paragraph). I love the ambiguousness that her books always end with, that idea that life will go on, and will continue to be messy. But this was seemed to need a few more chapters. Nothing was resolved, not even a little bit. The romance – well, it’s unclear if it will ever go anywhere at all, if Laura and Vince will ever try. It’s unclear how Willow fits in by the end, and if Beth will be okay. Everything is messy. Honestly, if I’d known one way or another if Laura and Vince were going to try, I would have been happy. But that part is left completely wide open, not as if they didn’t know yet, but like we just didn’t get far enough along in their story to know. It needed more.
Other than that, I loved it. I loved that Laura was fumbling along, trying to connect to her daughter’s world but not really knowing how. I loved her difficult relationship with the new preteen attitude, especially going through that with my own preteen right now. It was superbly done. So glad I finally got my hands on this one.