AlmostAlways-GrayLine-1Reviewed by Sara Padilla

The narrator of Almost Always is a fiftyish woman named Eva who likes to fix up other peoples’ lives. Well-intentioned but nosy, she eavesdrops on a teenage girl talking about her unwanted pregnancy to a friend while having breakfast at a local diner. Easily she enters their conversation, and engages them in a casual dialog about babies and family and future. Eva puts forward the fact that her own daughter, Shelly, cannot have a child though desperately wanting to have one. The girls react somewhat uncomfortably, but Eva is not one to note discomfort as reason to stop meddling. She leaves the girl her name and number on a napkin, and heads home with a plan in mind.

Eva’s family includes her husband John, a retired police officer who enjoys experimenting in the kitchen and otherwise irritating his orderly wife by leaving dishes in the sink, taking up unusual hobbies and puttering around the house. Despite their minor disagreements, they do appear to love each other and John speaks to his wife gently, yet honestly when she announces that the teenage stranger, Cecelia, is going to give her baby to their daughter and son-in-law for adoption. Undeterred, Eva tracks down the unknowing Cecelia, and states her intention to help her along with her pregnancy in order to secure a baby for her daughter. In the meantime, Eva’s daughter has no idea what is going on, and when she does approach her daughter with the plan, she doesn’t immediately hear the reaction for which she had hoped. Not much time goes by, however, before Shelly, too, accepts the idea that this baby is meant to be hers.

The flow of Almost Always is approachable and the characters are interesting, in particular the creative character who is Eva’s husband John. The author has crafted a family who truly cares about one another. But the overall prospect of the novel is at first hard to believe. At no time does anyone in Eva’s family question the legality or other complications that an open adoption such as the one they are pursuing may experience. Eventually they hire an attorney to handle the adoption, but it seems too easy, the way Eva’s meddling appears to have no unintended consequences.

Toward the end of the story, however, Eva’s role in her family and neighbor’s lives takes a darker turn. Tension builds as Eva questions whether or not she is making the right decisions by interfering in others’ lives, and the biggest question is whether or not Cecelia’s baby will be given to her daughter. By emphasizing that which is beyond Eva’s control, the reader is drawn back into the story and must wait, patiently, for the somewhat painful and surprising end.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Ms. Sara Padilla is a freelance writer and maintains a personal blog on family, health and wellness. She resides in the Pacific Northwest.

Review copy was provided by PageSpring Publishing. Compensation was received but in no way influenced the thoughts and opinions expressed in this review.