Anyone who has read this blog for a while will have met Cara Sue Achterberg in my reviews of her two wonderful books about fostering and rescuing dogs; Another Good Dog and 100 Dogs and Counting. I knew she was working on a novel that meant a great deal to her, but I’d also heard that this new book is a work of “chick lit.” My taste leans more in the direction of non-fiction adventure stories, but, within a few pages of Blind Turn, I found that there is a LOT more to this story than I have understood “chick lit” to be.
The two protagonists, Liz and Jess Johnson, mom and daughter, live in a gossipy little Texas town where “everybody knows everybody.” They tell their story in “real-time” interspersed with memories. Both are at turning points in their lives though they are not overtly conscious of this.
Liz is a single mom in her late thirties. Jess, Liz’ daughter, is on the cusp of seventeen. For Liz, life has been a matter of patching things up and holding them together for the sake of her daughter with whom she became pregnant while still in high school. Jess, at sixteen is a track star at her high school. She’s under the thrall of her “best friend,” Shiela, one of those golden girls many of us want to be at a certain moment of our lives. Jess is wrapped up in the usual things; homecoming, the beginning of a first love, her future, her mom and dad and their very separate lives. The circumstances that drive the story — a fatal car accident apparently caused by Jess reading a text while she should have been watching the road — push mother and daughter to crises of self-discovery.
The novel also shows the confused, tangled complexity of life in general, reminding the reader how difficult it is for us ever really to understand another person. The novel also touches on the shock of being betrayed by someone we believed was a friend. At times, to me, complex subplots seem to appear and vanish almost as suddenly as they appear. While I sometimes found this distracting as a reader, as a human being living life in the world, I know things can really go like that. It’s difficult in a novel, though, where one expects just a little more tidiness in the procession of destiny.
Blind Turn resolves in the reality that, even when we’re grownups, life’s events can shake our sense of who we think we are, and we end up growing up more or again. The title, Blind Turn, alludes to more than the turning in the road where Jess’ accident happened.
Achterberg does a beautiful — and tender — job with the novel’s main theme, forgiveness. Anyone who has found themselves in a situation where they have needed to give — or receive — forgiveness knows how difficult it can be, either to forgive someone who has caused us irremediable harm or to believe in the forgiveness offered by someone we have harmed or to forgive ourselves. We also know that moving forward in life can depend on that very thing.
Blind Turn is an engrossing read. Achterberg’s style is fast-moving and conversational. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it even if, like me, this is not your “go-to” genre.
And there are some good dogs in the story, too. ❤
Blind Turn is now available from Amazon and other booksellers!!!