Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Review: Blood Wounds

Blood Wounds
Susan Beth Pfeffer
2011; Harcourt; ISBN 978-0-547-49638-2 (hardcover)

Summary:  In Willa's blended family, there's Willa and her mom Terri, and Jack, Terri's second husband.  Most of the time, Jack's two daughters from his first marriage, Brooke and Alyssa, live with them.  Jack's ex-wife, Val, is rich and gives Brooke and Alyssa anything they could want, from horses and tennis coaches to trips to Europe.  Willa, by contrast, can't even have the voice lessons she wants since her mother can't pay for them.  To cope with the pressure of feeling unloved and unvalued, Willa cuts herself in secret, spilling her own blood.  But then Willa's estranged father commits an unspeakable act towards his new family.  In grappling with this horrible legacy, Willa tries to learn more about her parents' past.  Her new knowledge leads her to confront the assumptions and unspoken tensions that lie at the heart of her family relationships.  Willa discovers that Tolstoy had it wrong: every family, whether happy or unhappy, is different.

Never shying away from uncomfortable topics, Susan Beth Pfeffer explores the complex world of modern family dynamics in Blood Wounds.  When her father kills his wife and three daughters, it sets Willa on a journey to learn who she is within her different families.  Her father's acts are only the trigger for the story, belying the summary printed on the ARC I read; the heart of the novel is Willa's relationships and how they affect her.  Willa is difficult to like, but she is easy to understand, with the coil of tension growing ever-tighter until she finally breaks free of the role she thinks she has to play.  The character interactions are messy and complicated and real, heightened by direct prose and brisk pacing.  By the close of the novel, years of resentment and unhappiness are finally revealed, and Willa can create her own place within her family.  Pair Blood Wounds with novels like A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life by Dana Reinhardt.

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Tammy said...

Thanks for the review on Blood Wounds. I have read her previous series Life as We Knew it and loved it. So I will definitley be giving this one a shot.

*^_^* said...

Great post! Great review!
Well done, Melissa!