After a devastating accident leaves Shelby with an onerous survivor’s guilt, she wilts into a depression and essentially withdraws from her life. People around her — particularly her mother — try very hard to pull her out, but it is only when she begins to discover her drive to save mistreated animals that she finds a purpose in her life and a reason for her to actually connect with other people as well.
This story actually starts off so simply and slowly that it seems almost too simplistic. But it builds insidiously and the characters develop a charm and sweetness that work their way into your heart even before you know it. Even while Shelby is being rude and harsh, you can only feel sadness for her because of her tragic brokenness.
The writing here is remarkable as well. It is written in the present tense, which I usually find annoying. (I can’t even say why that is so.) However, in this case, I actually think it works. But Shelby can only live in the moment, in the here and now and has trouble thinking about a future; therefore a present tense is a logical way to express her story. There is also an intentional stiffness to the writing in general – to the description as well as the dialogue. It is very effective in relaying how awkwardly Shelby relates to others. There is only a comfort or warmth that shines through with very few people, and that becomes obvious as time goes on.
This is a heart-wrenching story but very moving and well-written. Another winner by Alice Hoffman!