Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Free to a Good Home Shows That Coming-of-Age Can Happen at Any Stage of Life

Eve Marie Mont's debut novel Free to a Good Home introduces veterinary tech Noelle Ryan, a woman whose life has been flipped upside down. Noelle's marriage began as the stuff dreams are made of, but it began to crumble when she had difficulty getting pregnant. Then her husband Jay left her -- for a man. Now Noelle is stuck in an in-between kind of place, still enamored with her unattainable former husband, living in a rental house, and working harder each day for no increase in salary. Her primary companion is Zeke, her Great Dane rescue dog -- always there for her, but lacking in the conversation department. And her favorite pastime -- browsing the House For Sale ads -- only reminds her of everything she doesn't have.

Jay is the worst kind of ex a woman can have -- just kind enough to keep Noelle hanging on, taking her to dinner for her birthday, finding little ways to stay in her life and not sever the tie between them. But as the book goes on, Jay shows his true nature, his self-centeredness that is evident to everyone but Noelle. First, he asks Noelle to help care for his mother who has just been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Later, he refuses to travel from his new Atlanta bachelor pad back to Rhode Island when his mother is hospitalized. Finally, he asks Noelle to make a sacrifice for him that will change her life -- and prevent her from ever moving on.

Meanwhile, Noelle's life is pushing her to change at every turn, much to her chagrin. She meets a gorgeous, younger musician named Jasper who is as determined to get to know her as she is to keep her distance from him. And her relationship with Jay's mother, Margaret, grows into a friendship neither of them expected. In addition to her personal life, Noelle also begins to make changes at the animal shelter where she works, and to breathe new life into the programs there.

Arcing throughout the novel are several themes which Mont examines with grace: the timeless coming-of-age tale, no matter how old you might be; the difficulties of procreation and the pain of infertility; and the complicated dynamics that exist in every family. Mont forces Noelle into making difficult but realistic choices, capturing the reader's attention along the way.

The form the novel takes makes for an interesting and easy progression; rather than dividing the book into chapters, Mont chose to section it by months, from December of one year to December of the next. This allows readers to view Noelle from season to season, and as she herself progresses throughout that year. In the year-long span, Mont also describes secondary characters and their maturing during those twelve months. One of the most endearing minor characters is Noelle's brother Nick, whose year would make for an interesting story on its own -- he goes from unemployed and living with their parents to responsible adulthood during the novel's time frame.

According to an interview with Mont on the Free Book Friday blog, she is currently working on a Young Adult novel. With years of experience as a high school English teacher, I'm sure she has plenty of teenage inspiration to help her devise an excellent YA novel!

Win your own copy of Free to a Good Home on the book giveaway website Free Book Friday this Friday, July 9th; there are three copies up for grabs, so your chances are pretty good! Peeking Between the Pages also has a guest post and giveaway. For a sneak peek of the novel, visit Mont's own website, where the author is also hosting a Book Club giveaway in honor of the novel's release and National Pet Adoption month.

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