(Reviewer’s note – I am an independent writer. In addition to reviewing books that I myself have purchased, I am also a freelance reviewer for Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster. My reviews are based solely on the merits of the book, and I receive no remuneration from the publisher or author, other than a copy of the book, in exchange for posting a review on my blogs, GoodReads and Amazon. The following is my review of Nicole Baart’s SLEEPING IN EDEN; purchased on Amazon. Thank you – vmls)
Sleeping in Eden is told in alternating chapters… present and past drawing nearer with each turn of the page of this story of life and of death… and all the paths between the two.
The discovery of a body just beneath the hard-pack floor of a disused barn – the scene of an apparent suicide Dr. Lucas Hudson has been called out on, to act as coroner on the case, is the beginning of the unraveling of a lie that has chained three families to a past not entirely of their choosing and has now brought a fourth family into a mystery almost a decade old.
Oh what a tangled web we weave. When Lucas holds back what will later turn out to be a crucial piece of evidence, the ‘good doctor’ takes that first step into the web. Why did he do it? Leverage in a failing relationship? A desperate attempt to plug the leak in his marriage before it sinks completely? Will what started out for Lucas as a little lie, end up destroying him and what little chance left to his marriage? Even as Lucas questions his own motives behind this fresh deceit, he is unable to understand his wife Jenna’s continued grieving over a loss years before; a loss Lucas seems unwilling or unable to understand or share. The river of denial runs deep in some.
Fifteen year-old Meg Painter doesn’t ‘play safe’ like most girls. She isn’t afraid of scrapes, bruises and torn nails. She also doesn’t ‘play it safe’ when it comes to boys, as is soon evidenced in how hard she falls for the new kid on the block, Dylan Reid.
Dylan is a bit of a mystery… a troubled boy, some instinctively sense and try to warn Meg about… a mystery with a past, who at times seems oblivious to Meg’s feelings, or perhaps he does but his young heart, already battle-scarred, isn’t ready to go back in to the fray just yet.
So, where does that leave Meg? Meg finds out that, as the author so eloquently puts it, “… death by devotion is a slow, aching bleed.”
Jess Langbroek, the third side in this teenage love triangle, loves Meg with a intensity almost as fierce as Meg’s own independence. Jess is the ‘safe choice’… every girl’s parent’s ‘dream’.
Meg is torn. Meg doesn’t want to play safe. Meg doesn’t want what it seems everyone else wants for her. Meg desperately wants to “step out of her perfect, pre-planned life” and make her own choices… live her own life.
The ‘echoes’ of Meg’s choices will one day haunt a man already haunted by ghosts of the past.
And that’s probably a good place to stop. I don’t want to give too much away.
I love the structure of this story… it really could not have been written any other way. Nicole has crafted an absorbing and spell-binding tale that fans of mystery and of contemporary fiction alike will ‘devour’, and then ask for more.
Suspenseful, fast-paced, impossible to put down… Nicole Baart’s latest novel, Sleeping in Eden, is all this and more. Having already proven her gift of finely-crafted prose in previous novels, Sleeping in Eden more than satisfies readers’ expectations from this extremely talented author. Nicole’s skill in setting a scene and creating mood with ‘pitch-perfect’ pacing and compelling narrative style will have readers talking about Sleeping in Eden for a very long time to come.
Nicole writes with passion and compassion, drawing on her own experiences and understanding of the unique nature of the family of man. One of the most satisfying things about her novels is the characters she draws… real, vulnerable, redemptive… complicated and unpredictable at times… there is a dimensionality to the people in Nicole’s writing that has become a trademark and one of the reasons she consistently brings out best-seller caliber novels. They are drawn in such a way that the reader can’t help but connect at some level. There is a relatability… I think that’s the word I want to use… that pulls the reader into the story.
And un-stereotypical characters… let’s not forget that. In Lucas Hudson, Nicole has written a truly rich character… a chimera of the two male stereotypes most often identified with. Normally a safe, ethical and reliable man, a faithful and responsible man… the deepening mystery in the barn brings out in Lucas, the ‘bad boy’… questionable motives and ethics, setting aside his own accountability and becoming tangled up in sins of omission and unwelcome desires he can’t quite seem to vanquish.
Teen angst… unrequited love… a mystery that demands to be solved… coming of age… we’ve all read books before that had at least one of those elements as the main plot. In Sleeping in Eden, Nicole takes these elements and weaves an indelibly sharp and poignant story of lives crossing time… innocence lost…love lost… and love found… of forgiveness and second chances… of seeing beyond one’s own self… of ‘waking up’.
Beautiful and bittersweet, Sleeping in Eden is at once a mystery… a love story… a cautionary tale of walking through life with eyes half-shut, unaware of the life around us, our impact on others and theirs on us.
It is a reminder that faith, fate, destiny, karma – whatever you want to call it – brings one back to the grace they had once lost and the true path of their journey.
I recommend Sleeping in Eden without reservation. This may just be Nicole’s best yet; written with verve and authority, and a unique understanding of the human condition. Beautiful prose, engaging characters and a plot that will keep you engaged to the very end… make Sleeping in Eden a ‘must-read’.
Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw
29 June 2013
(Writing under a large mushroom, somewhere in the Pacific Northwest)