Ashley’s Gift: A Story of Loss and Self-Forgiveness

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Ashley's Gift: A Story of Loss and Self-Forgiveness

Last Free Dates: 6th Oct 14 to 10th Oct 14
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...This is mis-lit at its finest....

I went into this with caution, expecting from the cover and description another naive story where the problems could be solved if everyone just talked to each other.

The first four chapters were mundane setup, which could be summarised as: main character is married with a nine-year-old child, does everyday chores. Although this is written to provide context and contrast it produces a very slow start, and it is not until the fourth chapter that the plot kicks in.

The main thrust of the plot is simple: Jenna answered the phone to deal with a bank error, and was maybe ten minutes late picking her child up, in which time a stranger wandered off with her daughter for which she never forgives herself. All I could think was that being stuck in traffic would make her later than that. And then they wallow in their own misery. Literally. They invite in a cousin – who steals from them. They are burgled. Her husband moves out – and loses his job… This is the story of two very weak people in a series of awful situations – a stolen child, a theft, job loss and so on. It is mis-lit at its finest.

My problem is that the characters are so reactive: events happen to them and they respond, they never go out and actively try to make things improve. There was no consideration to calling a private eye, or a detective, to putting out their own feelers and resources to find their missing child. They just leave the lot to the FBI who eventually close the case. Then Jenna invites in a cousin known for petty theft to stay with them because she’s obvious changed because she had a child. The result is realistic. Some of these issues seem contrived – firing the top salesperson because of the recession? I’d have thought even commission-only would have been offered so there was some income at least, but Robert doesn’t even ask for it. They can’t conceive a second child due to infertility, but they never considered adoption? Robert announces he’s going to leave, hoping his depressed wife will run across the room and beg him to stay?

And then after this parade of misery, to my absolute shock at the end it turns out that the main character thought her husband didn’t know she was ten minutes late, and this is what all the self-hatred came from. If anyone out there has been involved in a police investigation or reconstruction, that is unrealistic. The locations of people and times are one of the first things that comes up.

There are some nice touches and it handles complex formatting nicely. Partway through there is a book within a book written by the daughter, which contains pictures and is just as readable.

There are a list of discussion questions at the end for a book club. The book has a strong focus on God, and the Author’s note mentions their own Christian faith, but this couldn’t really be called a christian novel. It’s not uplifting – the characters end on a far lower note than they started – so I’m not sure whether it would be good for catharsis.

This is not a genre I read so I have trouble suggesting an audience. It would be suitable for anyone looking for short mis-lit or a depressing story with a christmas twist.

Rating: Unrated
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Discussion

Tregaron (6 March 2017)
I must correct you: this is *self-indulgent* mis-lit at its finest.

jessica (6 March 2017)
I gave up on this. She tortured herself for months because of something that her husband already knew and that would have been discovered in the first 30 seconds of the police enquiry? What if's are natural, but this? No way.

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