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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Aquamarine by Carol Anshaw (Book Review)

Title: Aquamarine
Author: Carol Anshaw

About the Book: Imagine how different your life might be if you had taken another path at a crucial turning point in the past.


With dazzling ingenuity and a bittersweet sense of regret, Aquamarine explores the intricate ways early choices -- made impulsively or agonizingly -- reverberate throughout a life.  Shown in triptych is Jesse Austin, on the verge of turning forty in 1990, inhabiting three equally possible lives, each aching with past loss, each defined by headlong love.


Jesse's choices have variously brought her to marry, divorce, or remain single, to love men or women, to live close to her Missouri hometown or deliberately away from it.  But present circumstances can't dispel her deep restlessness.  Jesse is always haunted by the moment she can't get back to, the moment hidden behind the aquamarine, when she lost the gold medal for the hundred-meter freestyle at the 1968 Olympics to a fatally seductive Australian swimmer named Marty Finch.


Aquamarine magically weaves together three scenarios of options embraced or discarded, seamlessly connected by the emotional ties that bind Jesse to the people in her past: her eccentric godmother, her adoring retarded brother, her withholding mother, and, most important, the elusive Marty Finch.


Infused with warmth, wit, and wry affection, Aquamarine plays exhilaratingly original variations on the themes of lost love and the unlived lives running parallel to the ones we have chosen. 

My thoughts:  I found it appropriate to be writing a review of this book today, as it is my birthday.  How often on birthday's do we look back and think where we might have been had we made different choices? Well, with Aquamarine, we get to see what different paths Jesse's life might have taken.

In each story, her relationship with Marty Finch right before the 1968 Olympics and her loss of the gold medal to her seems to haunt her and overshadow her current life.  She doesn't seem to be able to live fully in the moment, but always seems to be searching for someone or something more.  Her restlessness drives her to sabotage her current relationships (or at least be paranoid about them) whether those relationships are with a husband, lover, or child.  I liked that the peripheral characters all seemed to follow very closely to the same path regardless of the one she chose.  It was interesting to see how her attitudes differed toward these people - or more how their attitudes towards her changed because of her different lifestyles.

This isn't a book that I would have normally picked up.  It was chosen because of a book challenge, but I did find it an interesting read.

Aquamarine
Publisher/Publication Date: HMH/1992
ISBN: 978-0-395-58562-7
197 pages

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