Unexpected Gifts by S.R. Mallery
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Unexpected Gifts by S.R. Mallery
I've had this on my wish list for a while. For a change I actually was drawn to it by the cover but then the blurb helped me make the decision to put it in my wish list. I left it there until I noticed it again on Scrib'd and as with all that I decide to write up I find I have to pick up a copy on amazon to keep notes on.
Unexpected Gifts is a bit far from what I normally read, although one review called it 'time travel' which I do read so-gee now I'm confused. Anyway this falls more under dramatic fiction. And the novel is written using a framing technique of story framed within story. In this case it's several stories and the device to do this is a bit contrived but it's something I can live with.
Sonia is an interesting character who has mild OCD symptoms most of the time, which shows up mostly as a finger tapping tick; which I often found annoying in the story, but necessary. She is majoring in psychology possibly in part as a way to understand her OCD a bit more clearly. But she has more than the OCD going against her and it doesn't take time for the reader to see this. Enter the contrived part when she visits her parents and discovers there is an attic full of not just memorabilia but documents that give a fairly clear picture of her family history. She's about to find out that there might be some credibility to the notion that certain behavioral patterns are repeated throughout generations.
It starts out as a voyage to discover something that might help with dealing with her father who is a wheelchair bound veteran of the Vietnam War. She reads his letters sent to her mother: from Vietnam. This introduces her to the father she doesn't know because he won't talk about all of it. There is one small glitch in this in that there seems to be more information acquired here, this way, than we later on are led to believe could have been in those letters. But these letters and some diaries and other writing are all presented in small doses from her mother who seems to have some agenda in all of this to help her daughter.(The reader does not see the written material-but more of a flashback-and in some cases the flashback defies the maturity of the person who would be having the flash back at that time, but it is still effective in getting the point across and is otherwise done quite well.)
The outer frame of the story deals with the here and now and with Sonia's education and her friends and her boyfriend. As a reader I reached a frustration point where I wanted to shake her and wake her up about a few things. Part of this is because the style of writing allows the reader to know things ahead of time through things some of the characters don't really see, but this all works because the point is to have sympathy for Sonia no matter how much she seems to be sticking her head in the sand.
As the other stories unfold we see many of the people that are important to Sonia and to Sonia's mother are portrayed in ways that give Sonia insight into her family and in many ways to herself. A lot of this shows up as her making parallels from what she reads to things that happen in her life.
There is a lot of interesting and familiar history here because I would personally be about her fathers age so I went through a lot of the things he did around the years 1968 to 72 And that bit of history was neatly handled. The reader also goes all the way back to the suffrage movement seeing Sonia's family tied with many leaders of that movement. And there are a few other surprises but you'll have to read this to see them all.
If I were to voice any caveats to this work it would be one place where I felt Sonia fell out of character in an almost politically incorrect way(on top of it just not being her nature.) One of the characters has Cerebral Palsy and is in a wheelchair and Sonia's boyfriend Mike has just called the girl a mental retard. In defense of her new friend Sonia objects to that phrase and then does one worse by saying
"Mental retard? You don't even know what you're talking about! She's got Cerebral Palsy, Mike, not Down's Syndrome!"
Mallery, S.R. (2013-04-01). Unexpected Gifts (Kindle Locations 3116-3118). Mockingbird Lane Press. Kindle Edition.
Sonia's suffering OCD and she is taking Psychology classes so I don't think she'd make this kind of disastrous comparison. But she did and so were stuck with it as a reader and it dampens my sympathy for her at that point.
That aside Sonia is a well crafted character with some few faults and the overall story is well constructed creating a sort of modern fable with an interesting point.
This is a great read both for YA and Adults who like dramatic fiction with a bit of historical references an interesting genealogy.
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