A freak car crash in 1960s rural North Carolina puts in motion moments of grace that bring redemption to two generations of women and the lives they touch.
For forty years Aurilla Cutter has tended a clutch of secrets that have turned her mean. A fatal accident becomes the catalyst for the release of the passions, needs, and hurts in everyone affected by her hidden past. Darlene, a seventeen-year-old widow, struggles to reconnect with her dead husband while proving herself still alive. Soon loss and death work their magic, drawing Darlene into an unlikely affair that threatens to upend Aurilla’s family, and sets loose Aurilla’s own memories of longing and infidelity.
As Aurilla’s forbidden and heartbreaking story of love, death, and repeated loss alternates with Darlene’s, the divide of generations and time narrows and collapses, building to the unlikely collision of two women’s yearnings, which will free them both from the past. Loving the Dead and Gone is a lyrical novel that explores how both grief and love are the ties that bind.
***Thanks to NetGalley and Regal House Publishing for an eARC of this book. The following review is my honest reflection on the text provided.
Nobody dies alone, that's what I know. The dead forgive and they come for their own.
Loving the Dead and Gone is an incredibly emotional journey that explores grief in many different forms. Unfortunately, the narrative did not resonate with me. This is probably on me – I’m in a bit of a reading slump these days, and Loving the Dead and Gone is outside my go-to slump-busting genres.
I didn’t connect with any of the characters, and they all started to blend together. They’re all so passive – almost anything could happen to them, and they would just let it happen.
Aurilla, in particular, was the most confusing character. It felt like her base personality changed every chapter, and there was no consistent thread. She was brash and bold in some chapters, taking shit from no one. In others, she was a doormat, letting everyone walk all over her. Sometimes she was sly and sneaky; others, she was outright mean.
Oh, and she just… killed someone? With barely a second thought? That was so. weird.
Darlene was more believable. She’s so young, with a massive life change – yeah, she’s going to go off the rails a little bit. It probably goes on a bit longer than it should, especially considering we’re privy to her private thoughts, and she’s well over her little rebellion ages before making a change. I liked her parts the best – the rigid conformity of this small town was in desperate need of a young woman making her own rules.
Berta Mae was almost non-existent; she had very few chapters, and I think I found her as difficult as Aurilla did. Nothing is good enough, and everything is a problem. The most touching moments were her memories of her grandmother, but otherwise, I had very little interest in or patience with her. Similarly, Clayton was almost a non-entity. He was wishy-washy, his thoughts going in one direction while his actions went in another. As a result, he contributed very little to the story.
My instinct is to give this two stars. However, because I’m in a slump, I know I wasn’t attentive enough to pick up the nuanced parts of this very character-driven story, so I’m bumping it up to three.