I tend not to judge books by their cover, but I do judge them by their title. When I go to Borders or Barnes and Nobel, I scan the tables of the three-for-the price-of-two books. Sure, most have eye-catching covers, but it is the title that makes me pick up the book.
This has produced some pretty bad choices, such as “Castle in the Forest” by Norman Mailer, but has also produced some better ones, aka “Breakable You,” by Brian Morton (the latter also has a better cover, if you were wondering).
The back cover introduces you to the four people who create the narrative of the novel: Adam Weller, his former wife Eleanor, his daughter Maud, and Samir, his daughter’s lover.
The novel starts through Eleanor’s view. The breakdown on Eleanor: her husband just left her for a younger woman, blond of all colors, her daughter is a graduate student who has previously been hospitalized for depression, and she wants to solve everyone’s problems but her own.
Over lunch, she is meeting with her former husband about a year after their break up to discuss the divorce arrangements. The tensions begin to reveal themselves as Eleanor silently picks apart everything Adam does or says.
Maud is the center of their conversation – Adam is more concerned with his writing career and new affair and Eleanor wishes to coddle her daughter as much as possible.
It’s hard to discern just how capable their daughter is until you meet her.
She proves herself to be a quirky character for sure. More often than not, she is lost in her thoughts and living in her own world.
This changes when she meets Samir, perhaps the most intriguing character I have met in the past year. He is quiet but intense. Right away, one can tell he is harboring more grief than he can handle, but he isn’t ready to share it with anyone.
Though both are attracted to each other and genuinely feel comfortable in each other’s presence, each has something holding them back. The fragile, close-to-breaking Maud takes the lead in this relationship and begins to lead Samir back to life through sex. As their encounters grow more passionate, they begin a new lease on life.
Samir opens up about his daughter, who died from a rare blood disease at a young age, and Maud confronts her fear of falling into another depression by throwing herself into the love affair, while overcoming the thought that if her parents fell out of love, what is the point of falling in love.
At the same time, Eleanor’s high school sweetheart comes back into the picture, while Adam realizes that Thea, his young lover, won’t be around much longer. Each character faces their personal demons when confronting the idea of love and what it means to love another.
Samir especially has to fight the battles of loving someone after he convinced himself the world held nothing good after his daughter died. He sees her in the faces of all the children and has to overcome the guilt of feeling alive when she is dead.
Just as the characters begin to find out how to live again, tragedy hits, spinning the remaining characters back into a state of grief.
Morton scrutinizes the characters to find how one deals with grief and learns to live again in a heart-wrenching novel. More importantly it shows how little it takes to break and how hard it is to mend.