By Juliette Fay
Avon Books; $14.99
Reviewed by Sharon Galligar Chance
There are some books that grab your heartstrings and pull you into their pages from the first sentence of the first page of the first chapter. Juliette Fay’s debut novel, “Shelter Me,” is one of those rare and welcomed instances.
Fay’s story focuses on Janie LaMarche, a young mother of two high-spirited, young children, who is dealing with the sudden single-motherhood thrust upon her by her husband’s fatal biking accident. As she continues trying to get her everyday life in order, Janie is still dealing with the grief and anger over her loss. Her priest, Father Jake Sweeney comes by regularly to counsel her, and although she appreciates his efforts Janie desperately needs something, someone, to help her come to terms with her new life, to help her move on.
That’s when Tug Malinowski shows up on Janie’s doorstep. He is a local builder who has a contract to build a new front porch onto Janie’s house, a contract commissioned by Janie’s husband before his untimely death. Janie realizes that this porch was to be a surprise for her, and is now her husband’s last gift to her. She reluctantly agrees to allow Tug to go ahead with the building, not realizing how much she would soon come to rely upon the stoic carpenter.
As the summer progresses and the building continues, Janie deals with her grief with the help of her loyal band of friends and relatives, slowly returning to a semblance of order in her life. She relies on her eccentric but loving aunt to help her children stay happy and healthy. Her pushy, but well-meaning neighbor, Shelley, helps Janie to get her finances in order, and her pastry-supplying cousin, Cormac, is always ready to help out with muscle or a sympathetic ear.
But it’s the easy relationship with Tug, a man with a private grief of his own, that helps Janie’s heart to mend. As the porch work comes to completion, and Tug stays around, a solid, loving new presence in their lives, she realizes that life truly does go on after tragedy.
Juliette Fay has written a soul-searching story that is full of emotions of all description – joy, sadness, anger, and love. The drama and sentiment that Fay conveys to her readers is captivating and appreciated. Her characters are complex but enjoyable. By the end of the book, you feel as if you have known them their whole lives. I look forward to seeing what Ms. Fay has to offer in the future.