Following up on my earlier post, I finished Marlo Schalesky's If Tomorrow Never Comes. I liked it. A lot. It's a story about relationships and love, where they go wrong, and how they can be healed. Not that they will be healed, necessarily, but how they can be.
Childhood sweethearts Kinna and Jimmy Henley are watching their marriage collapse and seem powerless to stop it. Kinna's desperate desire for a child, and Jimmy's failure to come to terms with a childhood distorted by an abusive, alcoholic father, are destroying their marriage. Kinna steals fertility drugs from the hosptial where she works; Jimmy is compromising ethical standards by giving into pressure from his construction boss to cut corners on a project. Both are headed for professional, personal and martial disaster.
Then Kinna saves the grandmother named Thea from drowning, and Jimmy meets the scar-faced Joe, an elderly janitor at a coffee shop. And things begin to happen. The author weaves pictures from the couple's past into the present, and it is through memories that hope begins to sprout. But it's a tough, unyielding environment to grow such a small thing as hope.
I noted earlier that it took me, a male reader, a while to figure out what was happening, when a female reader would have been more attuned to the plot devices in this story. I still think that's right. Only when Thea showed up with the dog named Tulip did I understand what was happening. And I knew where it would lead and end.
But the important point was to stay with the story and on the journey. That's what Schalesky does in this novel. You know the destination but it's all about the journey, because that's the real story. As she writes in the afterword, elements of this story come from the author's own experience, and the telling is strong enough for the reader to hear the heartbreak.
Yes, If Tomorrow Never Comes is written for women readers. But it's a story for men, too.