Reviewed by Sarah McCubbin
Joanna is your classic Millennial with an added twist of fear of commitment. Her relationships tend to follow a pattern and her objective is clear. Two people who are in a relationship should stay together, but not forever. No, instead, they should make a clean break before it deteriorates. After all, every relationship eventually takes a turn south and rather than wade through that kind of heartbreak, two people should simply and rationally agree to end their time together and move on.
In her novel, Broken Homes and Gardens, Rebecca Kelly paints a picture of a young woman trying to convince herself that her bohemian ideals bring freedom and happiness while she exists on the brink of depression and confusion. After being dumped by her long-distance boyfriend, Joanna finds herself struggling to put her life back together. But things become even more unclear for her when she accompanies her sister to a party and meets Malcom. A bit of a freespirit himself, Malcom and Joanna find an instant connection and a friendship begins with a potential to be so much more. Eventually Joanna realizes that her idealistic approach to relationships must be reconciled to the fact that commitment brings with it many benefits that far outweigh the potential disadvantages.
As I read this story, I felt drawn in by the imperfect characters that felt so ordinary and real. Their struggles, hopes and dreams reflect those of many young adults trying to find their way in the world. And their approach to relationships felt like a commentary on the culture. In a society where marriages frequently end in divorces, individuals are left unsure whether marriage is a step they want to consider at all. Freedom becomes valued over commitment and the fallout in people’s lives often cannot be easily captured.
Joanna is an empathetic character. I found myself identifying with her need to live out her own personal beliefs. When she realizes that perhaps her ideals are flawed, again I felt a connection. My life choices are not the same as hers, but I think that all people want the chance to live out their beliefs and when that doesn’t work out, there is some kind of pain or regret. Malcom provides a balancing element to Joanna and I found myself liking this guy from the beginning. Not perfect for sure, but he allows Joanna time to “figure herself out” instead of calling it quits. In the end, his patience and confidence in himself gives Joanna freedom to step out and discover herself as well. All in all, I enjoyed this novel. The author did an excellent job of sharing a story while exploring common beliefs and understandings in our society.
Sarah McCubbin is a homeschooling and foster mom in NE Ohio where she resides with her husband and 7 children. In addition to reading great books, she enjoys gardening, traveling and blogging at Living Unboxed.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Blank Slate Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.