At some stage in their lives (sooner for some than for others), most people will reflect upon how differently things might have turned out if they had only made one or two early decisions differently. It is, after all, the decisions one makes while still too young to understand their real impact that often set the tone for the rest of one’s life. Choices of mates and career paths are as often backed into because they represent the “path of least resistance” as because they have been carefully and reasonably considered.
The “swerve” in Judith Whitman’s life did not happen until she was in her mid-forties. Judith may not have been particularly excited about her life in California with her banker husband, teen-age daughter, and film editing job, but she had to admit to herself that it was a secure and comfortable one. It is only when she loses the key that opens her newly rented storage garage, that her life swerves off its beaten path onto one much more dangerous – a path that runs all the way back to Nebraska and the man she jilted so many years earlier.
Judith was fifteen when she met Willy Blunt, a young carpenter already in his early twenties. When it happened, her parents were living apart and Judith was spending the summer in Rufus Sage, Nebraska, with her father while her mother got on with her own life back in central Vermont. Two years later, she would return to Rufus Sage to live with her father and finish high school. From the moment they met, it seemed inevitable that Willy Blunt and Judith Whitman would be together and, by the time she left Nebraska for a prestigious California university education, the two were engaged.
She would, however, not see Willy again for more than a quarter of a century.
Tom McNeal begins Judith’s story in the present, but uses a series of lengthy flashbacks to capture the essence of the more innocent high school girl who fell in love with a man and a lifestyle she would ultimately reject in favor of the more sophisticated one offered by southern California. McNeal has created an interesting character in Judith Whitman, but it is the Willy Blunt character that will likely be the favorite of most readers. Blunt is one of those all-American country boys who seem to catch the eye of every girl who sees him while, at the same time, earning the good-natured respect and envy of all of his male peers. Their story, together and apart, is an intriguing one that will have most readers rushing toward the book’s rather surprising ending.
Rated at: 4.0
(Review Copy provided by Publisher)