Autumn Leaves – Barbara Winkes

Autumn LeavesRebecca Lowman is a normal small town Mom. She has a husband who works too hard and is away 3/4 of the month, a teenager starting to cause her to worry and a delightful 8 year old. She has friends, saturday brunch, church and a manically busy life. She has even managed to keep up her web design business as a small sideline. She has everything she wanted and planned for.

When Callie moves into the vacant house across the street Rebecca reaches out in that all-American way with a welcome gift and the offer of friendship. She quickly finds out Callie is a writer who has written children’s books but now writes Lesbian Erotica. Rebecca is immediately disturbed by Callies’ openness about what she does and challenged in her small-town prejudices.

As their friendship develops Rebecca is increasingly drawn to her young neighbor. But just how far will she go is her acceptance of Callie’s sexuality?

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I have to admit straight out to finding this book a difficult read. It’s a good story, the players and pieces are all there, and you can see what Ms Winkes is trying to do. But that’s actually the problem. You can see what she is trying to do. It doesn’t flow, it hasn’t got quite that subtlety that means you forget the writer and become immersed in the characters and the story.

There are several issues. First for me was the language and editing. There are some typos, a couple of words missing, a few words used in an odd way, and more often a slight discomfort in the tense of a phrase and use of grammar. Ms Winkes is German now lives in Quebec. I admire anyone who even attempts to write in a second language, but it grates on occasion and dropped me out of the emotional flow while I reacted to the language. I would have preferred tighter and tougher editing to correct these little language faux pas.

In terms of editing there is also a huge amount of detail of daily life. There is nothing wrong with that in itself, but I am not sure it was all necessary or added to the story and character development. While it clearly sets the tone for Rebecca’s incredibly normal domestic suburban small town life, tougher editing could have reduced it and tightened up the story.

More important was that sense that you could always hear and feel the author. She has attempted to tell a great deal of the story through Rebecca’s internal monologue. That is a great tool, but it doesn’t quite come off. For me there were leaps in logic and thought. For example we see Rebecca more and more interested in Callie, but the jump into their weekend together seems too great from the preceding contemplation. There is too much of some thought processes and decisions and not enough of others.

Overall I felt disconnected from the characters. It got better as the book went on, once the deed was done they seems to settle down, they were more realistic and the plot, dialogue and internal consciousness worked more coherently.

This is Barbara Winkes’ first book and it’s a good attempt. I am being critical because it could be better. It isn’t terrible, and there are far worse out there in this genre. I am going to read the second installment, partly to find out what Ms Winkes does with the plot in another book and partly to see if the writing style (and editing) develops into something I find more comfortable.

(Publishers review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • First published 2012
  • Publisher: Eternal Press
    (a division of Damnation Books LLC)
    (November 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00A4OIOMS
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