BOOK REVIEW

REVIEW: TWELVE HOUSES, BY OLGA SOAJE

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When Amelia Weiss, well-known sculptor, loses her beloved husband Nathan after thirty-five years, there is a huge hole in her life. In her heart. She is paralyzed by the pain and grief, and finds it impossible to resume her sculpting. Her life in Seattle feels strange and empty.

Her grown children, Chloe and David, hover for awhile and then go on with their lives. In fact, Chloe has always been just out of her mother’s reach, distant, and with Nathan gone, there is nobody to forge the gap between them. Amelia’s mind carries her back to when she and Nathan were young and living in San Francisco. Her memories soothe her.

But when Chloe calls and asks her mother to visit in San Francisco, Amelia is anxious, but also hopeful for their relationship. Can the two of them find each other at last? While there, a connection between them seems to be growing. Then Amelia discovers that her daughter is pregnant.

Meanwhile, Amelia’s agent is pressuring her to complete pieces for an exhibit in New York, scheduled for October. How can Amelia even think of working? But something happens that spurs her on, and soon she is back in Seattle and productive again.

But Chloe is having a problem pregnancy and needs her mother. Will Chloe’s needs shove Amelia’s own aside? And what about Chloe’s handsome boss who seems interested in Amelia? Is it too soon for romance?

Astrology is a delightful theme in Twelve Houses, taking Amelia back to the days when she regularly sought readings and studied astrology. She reconnects with old friends and begins writing a column for a local newspaper.

This story had so many layers, and throughout, I could almost feel the push and pull as the various elements seemed to tug at Amelia, demanding things from her that seemed impossible. As she flew back and forth between Seattle, San Francisco, and then Boston, I had to sigh from the exhaustion of it all. Chloe’s demands and her attitude toward her mother made her an unlikeable character. At her age (thirty), I would expect a greater maturity. However, she begins to evolve after the birth of her daughter and by the end of the story. Has life come full circle?

For those who enjoy stories about love, loss, and starting over. 5 stars.

BOOK REVIEW

A YEAR OF TRANSFORMATION — A REVIEW

51AnSCblo6LWhen the relationship between Francesca Thayer and her long-time boyfriend Todd begins to unravel, the house and business they shared must be sorted out. Somehow Francesca finds a way to buy Todd out so she can keep the house she loves in the West Village…and continue in the art gallery she enjoys so much.

But it means taking a new look at what constitutes a home and recreating how she lives. Taking in roommates is part of the plan, and after carefully vetting the applicants, she settles on an intriguing trio: Chris, a graphic designer with a part-time son; Eileen, the girl next door who is just starting out; and Marya, a cookbook author and chef who turns the kitchen into a homey place for them all.

44 Charles Street: A Novel is an enticing look at how life can bring surprises, even after loss and having to create a new way of living. But in the year that the roommates share the space, everything that happens won’t be wonderful. There will be sadness, great pain, and from it all comes a greater strength as the house mates gather around to help each other through. And then unexpected love and new beginnings brings closure to the experimental living arrangements as each of them moves on. But predictably, there are also new romances. In typical Steel fashion, the reader is offered a glimpse of glamour and beauty, from Paris to Boston to Vermont, with many happy times unfolding in New York. A pleasant read, for which I give four stars.