Waiting for Harper Lee – Lea Daley

GCLS clean logoWaiting for Harper LeeIt’s 1980. Lynn Westfall escapes a broken heart by moving to a quiet town to set up her pottery workshop and start a new life. The town is dying through old fashioned values and stagnation, where the men still control how their wives vote and refuse to babysit as “women’s work”. Lynn joins the local women’s group, hoping to make some change, but before these woman can change anything in their community they need to change themselves.

In walks the vibrant Alix Dunnevan, ex-concert pianist, mother of two, married to a local bigwig and controlled all her life by her megalomaniac father and then her ‘chip off the old block’ husband. Lynn and Alix soon become friends and allies within the women’s group. Lynn quickly realizes the dangers of the ‘straight woman trap’ and repeatedly tries to cool their growing friendship – and herself – down. But each time she pulls back something happens to break through her barriers, and she realizes she is falling in love.

As Alix reveals more of herself, and the unhappiness in her marriage, Lynn’s hopes and feelings grow. In a final attempt to step away Lynn admits she has fallen for Alix, who immediately declares her love. But without any real understanding of the consequences will Alex have the strength to leave a controlling husband and risk losing her daughters or leave Lynn broken hearted and foolish for having fallen for a “happily married woman’?

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This is a nice, sweet tale of women in the early’ 80’s, before the ERA, before bra burning had spread to the south – if indeed it ever has.  Calling it nice isn’t necessarily a criticism. It is just that, a sweet tale of a typical brokenhearted lesbian moving to escape the betrayal and hurt after a seven-year relationship ends.   She meets the most interesting and beautiful woman around, they fall in love despite both trying to resist, and the rest of the novel explores their growing relationship, interacting with Lynn’s lesbian friends, and the stress and strain they individually and jointly suffer from the pressure, threats and taunts of Alix’s husband, father and school friends.

There is nothing shocking, nothing overly dramatic, nothing too sexplicit. The emotions, while seemingly troubled and painful, don’t really engage at a deep and meaningful level. While we are told of Alix’s anguish and her husband’s threats they never seem too harsh or too real.

Lee DaleyPerhaps it is the perspective of time, making it hard now to imagine a wealthy white woman in America feeling so threatened by the antics of her husband and father who try to bully her into abandoning her children and wealth, and when that fails try to get her to give up her new lover. But while I liked the characters and thought they were well written and rounded, and while the plot flowed through the ups and downs of a woman coming out, not least to herself, and the changes that entailed, it didn’t really touch me.

Gentle, charming, a pleasant way to spend a few hours.

Product info:

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • First published 2013
  • Publisher: Bella Books (17 July 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594933421
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594933424
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