Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Inn at Rose Harbor by Debbie Macomber

Debbie Macomber is a prolific author with what seems to be a great following. The Inn at Rose Harbor is the first book of hers that I have read. It was a quick read and one that doesn't require a great deal of thinking on the part of the reader. 

Set in the Pacific Northwest, the novel is the narration of three sets of characters connected by the Inn.  Jo Marie Rose is a a young widow. Her husband has been killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. Trying to find herself, she uses his insurance money to buy a bed & breakfast in Cedar Cove, Washington. The novel takes place over a three day period of time as the Inn is opened for business. Her first guest is a young woman, Abby Kincaid, who has returned to her childhood home for her brother's wedding. She is emotionally distraught and the reader gets the impression that she is in Cedar Cove only because of the obligation that she feels toward her brother. After a tragic accident when she was in high school, Abby left the area and has lived under a cloud of guilt in the ensuing years. 

The Inn's second guest is Josh Weaver who was called back to his boyhood home by the next-door, Michelle, neighbor of his ailing step-father. Josh has been estranged from Richard since his step-brother Dylan's death. Richard wants no part of Josh's presence and refuses his help and efforts at reconciliation.

The chapters alternate between the three characters' stories. Jo Marie's are told in first person, the other two in third person. The pace is slow and the reader often feels a sense of urgency in discovering how the three lives will be transformed as the weekend by the events that ensue. Macomber is in no hurry to divulge that. Abby and Jo Marie are both guided by voices from beyond as they struggle to find peace in their respective lives. Josh's conscience is more temporal and guided by the words and actions of Michelle.

The book is the first in an intended series about Cedar Cove. Secondary characters are introduced to Jo Marie and it is obvious that they will continue to be a part of future novels. In fact, at the conclusion of the book there is a real tease about two future guests of the Inn. The book is about seconds chances in life and explores the ways that men and women handle those opportunities. I can see it being made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie. It fits the bill of sweet and happy endings - OK for a read now and then, but much to sweet for a regular diet.

Johnson's Life of London by Boris Johnson

Whenever I travel, I love to immerse myself in literature of the area to which I am traveling. Knowing that we were going to spend 2 weeks in London at the end of October and beginning of November, I downloaded Boris Johnson's Life of London  to my iPad. Johnson is the mayor of London and quite a character in his own right. His book is a look at the history of London by historic personalities who made a significant contribution to that history. The book was a bit controversial on the other side of the pond because it was viewed as a campaign ploy for reelection. 

Johnson includes those figures whom one would consider seminal to the life of London - Boudica, William the Conqueror, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Samuel Johnson, and Winston Churchill. And then he includes some some lesser-known subjects like Dick Wittington (of cat fame), Robert Hooke, John Wilkes, and Lionel Rothschild. Johnson's style is conversational and one can almost hear him speak through the written word. His selections are enhanced with anecdotes that show historical figures as human and nearly as eccentric as he often is. The book was quite readable and, despite the bias, a very informative one. Interspersed with the biographical part are chapters on London institutions and traditions: the bicycle, The Tube, the Routemaster bus, the King James Bible, the suit and flush toilet. Perhaps the most impassioned chapter is the one on the Midland Grand Hotel and its recent renovation and reopening. I am not sure if at one time it was named the Millennium Hotel, but in fact today it's a star in the Marriott chain. 

It was a bit amusing to see the velocipede on the cover carrying through the theme of Boris' Bikes. The book is a very enjoyable and interesting read. It can be read straight through or in numerous settings - certainly a book for train and airplane journeys.