May 22, 2012

Book Review: Once Upon a List by Robin Gold

At First Sight: Clara Black had a perfect life: a job she enjoyed, a fiance, Sebastian, that she loved and a wonderful family. But when Sebastian dies in a car accident just 10 days before their wedding, Clara falls into the depths of dispair, pushing everyone and everything away for months and months. 

It all comes to a head when she's forced to visit her mother and brother, Leo, over Thanksgiving; and they are shocked to see the changes in her: her constant gloomy mood, her dramatic weight lost, and her lack of will to live. 

Having tried all types of therapy before, Clara latches unto an un-usual road map to recovery when she finds a list of things she wanted to do before she turned 35, which had been buried in a time capsule when she was in the 5th grade and which was recently returned to her by her former teacher. 

The list reminds her of the woman she once wanted to be, and with less than a year to go to her birthday, she thinks that maybe that woman will show her the way out of her all-consuming grief. So, with the aid of her mother and brother, Clara stars to cross off items. 

First she kisses her fifth grade crush, then she gets Milk Dud - the one eared dog wonder - and, as she goes about the items on her list, she reconnects with Lincoln, an old childhood friend with whom she was very close until he moved away when they were in their teens.

Lincoln knows her, and understands her - having gone through his own personal tragedies - and in him, Clara finds worlds of comfort. And, as Clara re-joins the living, she realizes that maybe her heart didn't die when Sebastian did. 

Second Glance: Once Upon a List starts with quite a punch, and I confess I was crying a little within the first couple of chapters, because when grief hits Clara, you feel the punch. 

In fact, the first third of the book is rather gloomy, and it even gets to be slow. And that was probably my main problem with this book. The first part of it, when Clara is still all gloom and doom seems to take forever, until her quest and her recovery speeds up and then it goes a bit fast (at least the months seem to go by pretty fast). 

That and the fact that Clara goes to a very cruel place when she's hurting and she says really mean things to people she loves. I understood that at the beginning, but after a while it just seemed mean when it happened. 

Otherwise, I thought it was a good book. I liked Leo and Libby - Clara's brother and mom - and Clara's memories of her childhood, her list of things to do was pretty awesome. And I really liked Lincoln. 

And I'll admit I REALLY liked the ending. 

Bottom Line: With it's ups and downs, I really liked Once Upon a List. I think this is a story that accurately shows that grief can make a monster out of people, but that eventually you gotta pick yourself up and move on. Other than minor problems with the pacing, I really liked the writing and I look forward to reading more by this author.

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