Date Completed: 6/25/2016
Although the story was somewhat predictable, Liberty and Means captured my attention with all of its emotions and different trajectories. I’ve been finding that many of the contemporary women’s fiction books I’ve been reading have felt very predictable and over the top, a quality i attempt to avoid. The plot points in this book were dramatic, such as winning ten million dollars from a sweepstakes, having your addicted brother show up on your doorstep with a new addiction, the absent mother troupe, and star-crossed lovers for good measure. However, they are situations in which everyday people find themselves in and how we handle them is so unique to each of our personalities and experiences. So, even though it was dramatic, I feel like Dow was able to navigate each situation with the skill that made it feel more real and down to earth.
Dow also did a fantastic job of tying all the varying plot points together and wrapping up the convoluted story at the end. The stories were woven together in such a way that even while we were focused on Shannon’s relationship with her brother, we were also reminded of her distant relationship with her mother as well as her sweepstakes winnings and how those things affect her life. Her conclusion was one of the stronger that I’ve read lately. She wrapped everything up while at the same time allowing for the flexibility of life to weave new paths through old plot line, a tactic I especially appreciated in this book. With these kinds of stories it takes skill to not wrap everything up in a bow but to also leave readers with a feeling of completeness in the story.
I think what really irks me about this book has more to do with the genre itself than anything the author could have done differently. I dislike predictability in books, and I prefer to read something that teaches me something more about the world that I am unable or unlikely to experience on my own. However, this book lead me to a greater appreciation for contemporary women’s lit in that the conversation around all the different relationships in our lives and how we handle those was masterful. Dow hits on the topic of navigating relationships that allow you to make the decisions that are right for you, and not feeling guilty about putting certain relationships on hold to do what you need to do. Towards the end of the story, where Shannon is in retrospection and introspection, she notes, “But now… I’m free. I’m no longer tethered to this place, and as that thought becomes further solidified in my mind, I feel a sliver of my sadness slipping away.” I think the underlying message is that you shouldn’t put yourself on hold for other people; if someone else cares about you then distance and separation won’t force them out of your life. Also Dow seems to speak to that it is okay to let go of relationships in your life and to make your own decisions for yourself.
Kristin Dow worked in marketing before turning solely to writing. She’s published one other novel, Unbridled Holiday.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.