I haven’t read a non-humorous, non-romantic work of Women’s Fiction in, oh, about a year. If Fresh Air is a typical example, I’ll likely wait several more years before reading another one. While Charlotte Vale Allen’s latest is written competently enough, the story was too dull to capture my interest.
I can sum up the story line of Fresh Air in one sentence: Reclusive daughter of former movie star is brought back into the world through her friendship with a precocious young girl.
Lucinda Hunter is the daughter of movie star Lily Hunter. Lily was always more interested in acting than in being a star and she and Luce were able to have a fairly normal life. By the time Luce is 19, she’s already graduated from Yale and become a successful writer of screenplays. But then Lily dies, and Luce withdraws after discovering a picture of her birth father. To learn that she wasn’t adopted, that Lily had been married to a man of mixed race knocks all of Luce’s props out from under her. She reacts by withdrawing from her friends, shutting herself in her house, and proofreading content for web pages. If she tries to go anywhere, it brings on terrible migraines.
Luce’s agoraphobia lasts 25+ years until, one afternoon, she sees a young African American girl playing next door. The nine-year-old is Harlem-native Katanya Taylor, who is staying with a host family through the Fresh Air Fund. Kat and Luce become friends, and through her, Luce begins to come out of her isolation and re-join the world. Eventually, she finds her father’s family and learns the truth about herself and Lily.
Readers who like a gentle, introspective book will probably love this one. I guess I am not that reader. I could not understand or empathize with the characters.
Take Luce. While I understood her shock in finding out her true heritage, I didn’t understand her withdrawal from the world. She makes some effort to find her father’s family, but mostly stays in the house, a prisoner of her headaches and panic attacks, and keeps the world at arm’s length. But when Kat comes into her life, in a matter of weeks, after spending 25+ years as a recluse, she turns into a much stronger and self-sufficient woman. Too much, too fast for me.
Kat is Super Child. She’s only nine, yet she is cute, smart, able to do just about anything in the world. Kat single-handedly brings Luce out of her shell and gives her the leads she needs to track down her father’s family. So much wisdom from one so young is not realistic.
The other characters were there to move the story along, and that’s about all that I can say about them. Romance? There is none at all.
While Fresh Air reads smoothly, it was too short and there was not enough in it to hold my interest. All, and I mean all, of the conflict was internal. Call me shallow, but I want some action along with angst in my reading.