Although he is already a prize-winning short story writer (a 2008 Flannery O’Connor Award for short fiction and a story included in the 2008 Pushcart Prize anthology), In Between Days is Andrew Porter’s first novel. I was originally drawn to the novel because of its Houston setting but, frankly, setting is not the book’s strong suit. Other than dropping a few street names, restaurants, and the like into the mix, Porter really does not create much of a sense of what the city is like - In Between Days might be happening in any large American city.
Porter’s plot, though, is an interesting one. Part character study, part coming-of-age novel, it is the story of the four-member Harding family, a family stretched to its breaking point long before the event that finally threatened to shatter it once and for all. As the book’s opening sentence reveals, Elson and Cadence Harding have recently divorced, a status to which neither of them have adapted particularly well. Elson, once one of Houston’s hottest young architects, has become a disappointment both to himself and to his employers. Cadence, struggling to find new direction, is taking college business classes and sleeping with one of her professors.
Their son, already a college graduate, is still living at home with his mother and working a dead end coffee shop job while he considers his future. His father did not react well to the recent disclosure that Richard is homosexual, and their relationship has been severely strained ever since Richard broke the news. Chloe, Richard’s younger sister, was attending an east coast college when she learned that her parents had separated. Now she has been kicked out of school, and is accused of being part of something so serious that she refuses to discuss it with her parents. Only when private detectives show up at her Houston home, do Chloe’s parents begin to realize what kind of trouble she really might be in.
In Between Days is a story about relationships, trust, and the difficulty of ever going home again once a certain emotional line has been crossed. The Hardings are in a “between times” period during which the courses of the rest of their individual lives will be determined. They are somewhere between being the strong family they once were and forever splintering into four very separate lives, and all bets are off as to where each will end up as they struggle with the thought of a future that scares them to death.
Is a happy ending in store for them? Depends on whom you ask, but I’m not certain that even the Hardings are sure how to answer that one.
(Review Copy provided by Publisher)