Any Bitter Thing Hardcover – Import, 19 May 2005
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A catastrophic accident forces a young Catholic wife to question the good intentions of those around her, in Wood's polished second outing (after My Only Story, 2003), set in small-town Maine.
Incredibly, the abandonment of Lizzy Mitchell on the side of the road after she's hit by a car one March night becomes the third traumatic desertion of her life: the first occurred when her parents died in an airplane crash, leaving her orphaned at age two; the second from the vanishing of her caretaker uncle, Father Mike, when she was nine. Nobody believes that Lizzy remembers a visitation when she was in the hospital after the accident not even her husband, Drew, who is trying to repair their marriage after suspicions of his infidelity drove Lizzy out the night of the accident. Yet Lizzy swears that her beloved Father Mike was there, although she has always been told that he died shortly after the dubious child molestation charges wrested the priest away from her. A 30-year-old counselor in a high school, Lizzy suddenly receives word from the so-called Bad Samaritan who moved her body after she was struck by another car and then left her on the side of the road after calling 911: this aged broken-hearted alcoholic, Harry Griggs, desperately seeks her forgiveness but then doesn't have the strength to use her confidence in turning his life around. After an opening bang, Wood gradually works her way back in time, using alternating points of view and time periods to unravel the soulful mystery of these deeply scarred and intensely human characters. The trials visited upon Lizzy both as a child and adult seem brutally unendurable, and yet her vulnerability becomes her strength. Overall, Wood keeps a firm control, even when testing poor Father Mike with every temptation imaginable. Quotes from The Liturgy of the Hours delicately weave a Christian message throughout. A quiet tale with epic repercussions. -Kirkus Reviews
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- Publisher : Chronicle Books (19 May 2005)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 384 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0811846040
- ISBN-13 : 978-0811846042
- Reading age : 13 years and up
- Item Weight : 522 g
- Dimensions : 14.99 x 3.3 x 21.08 cm
- Country of Origin : USA
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from other countries
Being a Catholic myself, I am well versed with church dogma and spent many years in the company of priests and nuns. This was a first time read for me by this author, so I had none of her other works to use as a comparison.
Although the beginning drew me in, for some reason the novel did not keep riveted.
I am not sure why. Perhaps it was the author's style of writing, it just seemed to me, that it took a long time to tell a simple story.
This is a story filled with love, loss, forgiveness and the tenacity of family.
Although the author spent lots of time developing Lizzie's character, I wish she had spent more time developing Father Mike's and Vivienne's. I wanted more about them and never really got it. I had questions for which I never got answers; what happens to Lizzie's and Father Mike's relationship? Andrea Harmon? Why no scene between Father Mike and Vivienne?...and a few others.
I appreciated the plot twists in the later chapters, I didn't see all of them coming. This was an unexpected treat which woke me up long enough to finish the story.
The story had lots of potential but I think the way it was written it never quite reached it.
All in all, a sad tale with no real winners. All the characters were left hurt and broken.
Wood tells the story by alternating point of views between Lizzy and Father Mike. She takes readers into a maelstrom of right and wrong as the story unfolds. Father Mike is as devoted to his church as any priest. Yet he is tempted. This dilemma coupled with Lizzy's recollections of her childhood build into a gripping story.
With a cast of interesting characters, each one developed with the care of a precise writer, Wood crafts a story with masterful prose. The writing never falters as in this passage, "I spent seven years as Father Mike's child, a time delicate and fossilized, sweet as a paw print encased in amber, telling as a line on a cave wall."
This book is worth reading not just for the superb prose and story telling, but because Wood forces readers to examine their understanding of right and wrong. A great novel demands your attention long after you have finished it. That is exactly what Wood has accomplished in this fine novel.
Father Mike's capacity for self-sacrifice and care is no surprise, seeing as how he's a priest and all, but what is a surprise is his complete delight in fatherhood. Any Bitter Thing is that rare book, a portrait of a man as a devoted, loving, self-sacrificing single parent. Crow Lake is one of these books, Silas Marner is another. What's interesting to me is that the men in these books are not the biological fathers, they take on children who have lost their parents. Parenthood is a transformative event, but I wonder if there are books about biological fatherhood that offer this same spellbinding vision of its power.
It's not easy to say what this novel is about: abuse scandals within the Catholic church, the ubiquity of loneliness, the hard work that a marriage demands, the punishments of secrecy, the joys and terrors of love?
Wood holds all these themes together in the interwoven voices and characters of Lizzy, a young woman recovering from a near fatal hit-and-run accident, and Father Mike, the Catholic priest and uncle who raised her when her parents died.
The story is one that readers will both want to rush through and savor, lingering over lovely phrasings such as "Telling felt like resting" or "Bad news usually arrives ugly."
A thoroughly satisfying read.