General Rating: A wonderful story that jumps between the lives of thirty-something Valencia and eighty-something Mrs. Valentine.
Skip factor: 0% I skipped nothing. This is the second book I’ve read by Krause and I’ve skipped 0% in both. Simply, I love her writing.
Who should read: Women who like good writing and unique stories, have ever felt lonely, have even a smidge of OCD, or are helpless dreamers.
Favorite line(s): “But in real life you go around thinking that everything good is going to last forever, and it takes you by surprise when it doesn’t. And when you suddenly realize that it has happened for the last time, it’s too late.”
Summary: This novel entails two stories, one of Valencia, the thirty-something, and Mrs. Valentine, the eighty-something. Valencia has OCD and sometimes confuses her imagination with reality. Mrs. Valentine has no difficulty distinguishing between reality and the imaginary, but she has a wild imagination and tells lively, believable stories.
Characters: Krause creates two equally-lovable main characters and several likable ones:
Valencia has been diagnosed, medicated, and sees a psychiatrist for OCD. She’s a debt collector, occasionally wonders if she’s schizophrenic, and never rides/drives on the highway or boards a plane.
Mrs. Valentine is an elderly woman who invites people into her life in order to spend time telling her stories. She’s lonely and the reader develops instant compassion toward her.
Anna is the granddaughter of Mrs. Valentine’s deceased friend (whom she pretends is alive) and the new listener of Mrs. Valentine’s stories.
Grace is one of the few friends who has ever accepted Valencia just the way she is. You like her instantly.
James is someone Valencia meets over the phone and, though I liked him much, I was wary of him.
Peter, Peter, Peter. I loved him. Rooted for him throughout.
Storyline: Unique. Readers are sure the two stories unraveling are related but aren’t sure how. Valencia hints she caused a death, and Mrs. Valentine pretends she’s talking to the dead, which hooks your interest and keeps you turning pages.
I will not reveal too much but I’ll say this. The story is brilliant and the ending magnificent. I haven’t cried so hard at the end of a story in years, and I’m not sure whether I was crying over the story or the fact that I had just finished such a work of art. It was sad and happy and beautiful all wrapped together and packaged to perfection.
Writing: In Valencia and Valentine, Krause masters writing style, technique, word usage, and character development. Normally when you find a book that tells two stories, you like one more than the other and zip through one section to get to the other. Not so here. Remarkably, I loved both stories equally.
Read this author again? Yes, yes, yes, rumor has it she’s written a third novel. This book has made me a Suzy-Krauss book stalker. I can’t wait for her next one.
CJ Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene, a psychological thriller, Dream Wide Awake, and Project Dream, two thrillers that carry a sixth-sense paranormal element, and Friends Who Move Couches, women’s fiction. She is currently in the process of editing her fifth novel, Don’t Mind Me, I Came with the House.
All of Zahner’s novels arose, to some degree, out of true-life events. Her Friend’s novel is “nearly” a memoir, and her “dream” series was inspired by odd events in Zahner’s life. (See the video of her paranormal experience, a premonition of 9/11 here. Download her Beyond Reality Radio podcast here.)