Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes. New York: Ballantine Books, 2019. 304 pages
After months of preparation, Evvie Drake was finally doing it. She was taking charge of her life and leaving her husband. The car was packed when the call came, her husband had been in a tragic accident.
Fast forward to almost a year later and Evvie is in her big house in small-town Maine, outwardly living the life of a grieving widow. Her family and friends are convinced that the reluctance to move on is because she is keeping her grief locked in. However, the paralyzing agent is the fact that she feels no grief. She is tormented by feelings of guilt and memories of her troubled marriage.
Dean Tenney is also struggling. He had been living the high life as a major league pitcher when he stopped throwing strikes. After undergoing therapy of all kinds, he had been unofficially diagnosed with a case of the “yips.” All of his one-time fans are now sending him hate mail and Dean decides to escape the media storm and head up to Maine. A mutual friend recommends Evvie’s guest apartment located at the back of her house as a refuge. Before agreeing to the new living arrangements, they make a deal. Evvie will not ask about Dean’s baseball career and Dean will not ask about her marriage.
It is perhaps unsurprising to everyone but the main characters when those rules transition to loose guidelines as the two slowly open up to each other. As time passes, these neighbors become friends, and then eventually more than. Their fairytale ending is not quite in sight, because they both still have lingering personal baggage to resolve.
More than a romance story, this is a story of two regular adults trying to make sense of their messy lives. The romance is only one storyline as the characters confront other hurdles such as learning to navigate changes in friendship and familial relationships. Despite the presence of serious issues, the novel still comes across as refreshing. This is largely due to the natural and often hilarious dialogue spoken by all the characters. The reader will find it easy to cheer Evvie and Dean on in their search for a fresh start.
Overall, an impressive debut novel that has both warmth and depth. A recommended read for fans of Jasmine Guillory or Elizabeth Berg.
Amanda Gramley is the Adult Programming Coordinator with the Alamance County Public Libraries. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.