Reviewer Sandra Shwayder Sanchez: Sandra is
a retired attorney and co-founder of a small non-profit publishing
collective: The Wessex Collective with whom she has published two short fiction collections
(A Mile in These Shoes and Three Novellas) and one
Her most recent novel, The Secret of A Long Journey is soon to be released by Floricanto Press in April 2012 and her first novel, The Nun, originally published by Plain View Press in 1992 is being reissued in a 2nd Edition with additional material by PVP in March 2012.
Author: Sarah Leamy
Publishers: Eloquent Books
Strategic Book Group
This 200 page novel is written like a memoir, a dying look back on a long life of extensive travel and an improbable come and go love affair with a narcissistic but mysteriously magnetic woman who believes in loving and leaving and loving and leaving year after year and decade after decade all around the world. The narrator does not linger over memories, whether joyful or painful, but marches right along at a terse, tense, clipped pace that covers a lot of distance both emotionally and geographically in a few words. For instance, remembering a few years in Guatamala:
"And after two years or so, I wrote. The more time I spent out and about, the more trust I got from everyone in town. So many neighbors talked to me and they wanted me to tell the world about their lives within the civil war. And it truly was a war. I wrote and sent off photos, articles and essays to the papers in the U.S. I started out utterly ignorant. I learned so much."
Dialogues are similarly short and get right to the point:
"Last month they killed my grandfather," Diego told me one afternoon.
"Because he wore his traditional clothes. Not western ones like the government demands of us. He died wearing his own clothes. I am proud of him."
And upon the heart stopping appearance of the come and go lover in this most unlikely place at this most unlikely time:
"She strolled into the bar. My local. Not good. I didn't know what to do. I waited. I watched the front door. I waited. And I walked in."
The author establishes and maintains this stacatto rythmn throughout the novel giving it a tension and suspense that moves the story along at a very fast pace, except for those respites back in the mountains of New Mexico when the author takes a deep breath, looks around and finds comfort in the beauty of the landscape. The reader feels it, the slow deep inhalation, the beauty. And this is of course what good writing is all about: putting the reader there, in Russia, in Guatamala, in Spain and Wales and of course New Mexico, there with real people who speak in authentic voices. When I finished I felt like I'd taken a very interesting trip with a fascinating guide. But there is more to When No One's Looking than fascinating tales of travel and love, there is also a secret that is hinted at throughout but not fully revealed for certain until the last few pages. And there is one memory so awful that once we become aware of it in the middle of the book, we understand fully why this narrator is a person of few words because words could never fully describe what that childhood memory must have felt like. No wonder Joey, prefers to write news articles about intentional communities, or the political realities of communities around the world, and participate in other people's family lives.
Joey's triumph is in fact turning what could have been a life marked forever and completely by tragedy into a life fully lived and for the most part enjoyed, more ups than downs. In fact what might seem like a sad ending to younger readers will seem like a happy ending to older readers: you'll get different rewards from reading this book depending on what experience you bring to it, but in any case, this book is a rewarding read.
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