The Observatory is boring. It is whiny. It’s characters are lifeless and dull. The cover blurb insists it is written “In the romantic tradition of The Bridges of Madison County and The Notebook…” Well, I should have slammed the cover shut right then and there.
Liz and Harper Mallory are twins. They are thirty-six. They don’t look alike. The author never states if that’s because they are fraternal twins or simply identical twins who have chosen to look different from each other. Knowing this would have helped me figure these two out a little better. Maybe. Liz is the “good” twin (it’s her story told in the first person, so I had to accept Liz as the heroine – against my will); Harper is “evil,” by comparison.
Women’s fiction is loaded with dysfunctional sister stories, and this one is nothing new under the sun (or the moon and stars, if you happen to be standing inside the observatory). Harper is sexy, flamboyant, artistic, married and divorced, and has two children. She is rich and famous and has overshadowed Liz all their lives. Is it Harper’s fault she is a capital-E extrovert and gets all the men and the money and the fame? Well, shy, mousy, stay-at-home Liz thinks so.
Tell me, what profession can you name that is the antithesis of the flamboyant artiste? The woman of the world? The sexy, hip, jet-setter? Yes, that’s right. Liz is the local (oh, the horror) librarian. God, can there be a more clichéd occupation for a thirty-something, small town spinster with issues? Puh-leeze. Oh, she’s the head librarian. Does that help?
Well, to make a short story shorter, Harper’s daughter is killed in a snow-sledding accident. Liz leaves Longwood Falls and drives to Harper’s estate for the funeral. Harper can’t stand the pain, so she abandons her 7-year-old son, Nick, to Liz’s inexpert care while she goes off to an island in Florida she owns, to heal.
Liz promises the wounded Nick (a child she has never met, even though she’s his aunt) that she’ll always be there for him; that she’ll love and take care of him, no matter what. Well, except for when she’s off somewhere with Nick’s handsome 2nd grade teacher and amateur astronomer, David Fields.
Liz meets David at the funeral, and it’s not long before they fall in love. He lives in an observatory and looks to the stars to try to heal a wound from which he has never recovered – the death of his mother when he was Nick’s age. Okay, the man’s 41 now and has never been married. You’d think he would have sought professional help at some point in the last 35 years to deal with his mother’s death, but, I digress.
Now you have the gist of the story. Things are fine until Liz discovers that Harper had one-upped her years earlier, so she beats a path back to Frostbite Falls, um, I mean Longwood Falls, giving David the brush off.
Oh yawn and double yawn. For a book that’s only 181 itty-bitty pages, every word should have counted in a story that went somewhere. Instead we have Liz whining and feeling sorry for herself through the whole thing. And when the chips are down, she abandons Nick just as his mother did. She never gives the only man she’s ever loved a chance to explain anything because she’s too wrapped up in her own little world of snivels, and instead, picks up with an old boyfriend whom she doesn’t love, just so she can break his heart when she realizes who she does really love.
The only reason I didn’t grade this book even lower is because I love astronomy, and I liked David. He was decent and sweet, and did nothing to evoke Liz’s self-pitying wrath and subsequent cold-shoulder. The writing itself is okay, but, at an astonishing $20, I cannot recommend it. The cover is very pretty, but that’s about it.