The Conditions of Love is Dale M. Kushner’s first novel, but you would never know it by the way she writes. The way she describes her characters, her style and often profound little snippets of wisdom hidden throughout the story all make her a very unusual author – probably one of the most talented writers I have ever had the privilege to read.
Right from the beginning, I was drawn into The Conditions of Love by its unusual cover. The cover may look like random things tied together – a flood and a pet parakeet, but these are actually both very relevant to the story within. It is also worth noting that the style of the cover was artful and well done, something that seems rare in most of today’s books.
The story covers three separate sections that tie together fluidly, and each one gives a unique insight into the relationships of a girl named Eunice.
The first section is set in the 1950’s, and gives a perspective of Eunice from the time she is a little girl. The story is centered around Eunice’s eccentric, unlikable mother, and the relationship that they have with each other. Along the way it is impossible to feel anything but heartbreak for this lonely, lost little girl. In many ways, Eunice is more of an adult than her mother, and her independence eventually takes her away from her unpredictable life with her mom and washes her into an enchanting life with a woman named Rose.
The second section finds Eunice as a teenager living in the woods with Rose. It is here that she transitions from child into woman, and she learns that she is a person of value, one to be treasured and appreciated. This was my favorite section because Rose is an incredibly likeable character with a story that is completely unique and heartbreaking in itself. Eunice learns from Rose how to be a beekeeper, how to rescue lost animals, and how to work hard and love deeply. In many ways, Rose is the mother that Eunice never had – the mother she always deserved. But just like a flood that washes lives away, Eunice’s life with Rose eventually is taken away as well, and she finds herself in foster care.
The last section of the book focuses on Eunice from the time she is a teenager until she is an adult. Eunice learns very quickly that love comes in many forms – from a childhood pet turtle to a flawed mother, from a hippie in the woods to a beautiful older man. It is here that Eunice falls in love for the first and last time, and the story follows her throughout her life while tying in characters from her past.
I could not find a single flaw with this book. The characters are all completely unforgettable, but even more importantly, Kushner’s poetic, beautiful talent with words sets this book apart from any other that I have read. This is absolutely a book that I will come back to read again and again. The love of a mother, the love of a father figure, the love of a pet, the love of a friend, and the love of romance — all of these concepts are so beautiful and intricate, and each variation of love takes an ordinary life and makes it nothing short of extraordinary.
Holly is a digital artist and an environmental scientist. She also participates in parrot and exotic animal rescue.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Grand Central Publishing. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.