Desert Isle Keeper
The Odds of You and Me
Women’s fiction can be an interesting change from contemporary romance (which, don’t get me wrong, I mostly love), as it tends to be grittier and less inclined to small-town sheriffs and extended families. I picked up The Odds of You and Me by Cecilia Galante mostly because I liked the set-up, and I was rewarded with a thought-provoking book that comes this close to perfection.
Bernadette “Bird” Connolly has what you’d consider a bleak life. She lives with her widowed mother and her small son in awkward circumstances – the two women do not get on – and she cleans houses for a living. In addition, she is on probation (incurred when she bounced checks some years ago) for another thirteen days. Her dream is being able to move out into an apartment on the lakeside with her son, and actually she is very close to achieving this. Then, on the morning news, she hears that James Rittenhouse, a co-worker from years ago, has been arrested for beating a man almost to death in a drunken brawl. And it is only a few hours later that she discovers an injured James hiding out in the abandoned choir loft of a church. Now what is she to do?
The novel is written in the first person, and we spend all our time inside Bird’s head. So we mostly share her perspective, but again and again the author inserts bits and pieces that hint of other characters’ attitudes that Bird herself is not aware of at that time. The parts of the story that are set in the present are told in the present tense, while those that explore what happened earlier are written in the past tense. I am not usually particularly fond of present-tense narrative as it often achieves an overdone breathlessness, but here it works just fine.
There are several reasons why I found this novel absolutely gripping. One, I loved the way that the characters’ back stories are revealed layer by layer. True, there were some elements I guessed at at some point, but I really enjoyed getting to know Bird and the people around her page by page. Two, I was fascinated by the way that Bird’s circumstances are explored. She is not quite on the bottom rung of society, but her situation is rather fragile. Reading about her dreams and aspirations (in contrast to the heroines in most contemporary romances) reminded me that, even in fiction, there is more to life than cupcakes and wedding dresses. This – making ends meet, getting to preschool on time, balancing jobs – sounded true.
Three, I adored the characters. There is James – whose relationship with Bird is explored – as well as her mother, the parish priest, the probation officer, the two people for whom Bird works, and her five-year-old son. He was spot-on – with the real problems and worries of a five-year-old, and very sweet but never sugary. The other relationships are more fraught with difficulties, and slowly the characters are revealed as three-dimensional and very likeable.
Four, the topic of religion is dealt with in an excellent manner. Bird is a lapsed Catholic, while her mother is quite the bigot, and this is part of the struggle between the two women. As with other aspects of the novel, the characters’ religious attitudes are revealed in more and more layers. I found that utterly fascinating and quite unique in my reading experience (not just in romance).
As I said at the start, this is women’s fiction and not romance. You may infer from this that the novel has a bitter-sweet ending at best. There is sex, but if any of the usual categories applies here, it is “subtle”. That said, there is one very uncomfortable scene of a sexual nature that, although it is not absolutely graphic, goes into some details that may be upsetting for some readers.
Everything I have said so far is praise, so what is it that I did not quite like? A small thing really, but at the ending a couple of things fall out just a bit too pat. This did not mar my overall enjoyment at all and I was scarcely aware of it as I was reading, but it did strike me afterwards.
The Odds of You and Me is an immensely gripping read, and I highly recommend it, especially if you sometimes long for a bit more realism in your contemporary reading. I am going to look out for more novels by Cecilia Galante!