A summer fling turns into something more in this scandalous tale of age defying love. Touching on controversial themes, particularly that of women dating younger men and the stigma attached, Donna Small spins a fascinating narrative. Having been a lifeguard at a local pool, I could particularly relate to and connect with the culture Ms. Small describes so effectively in the novel to set up for this May-December, no more like May-Augustan romance. Though some of the scenes are a bit redundant and I would have liked to see the characters developed through actions and events more than descriptions and hind sights, overall I enjoyed the narrative. The themes were easy to connect to (though could have been explored more–and may still be), and the characters are realistic. The end leaves readers craving for another Kate Penner story, which hopefully Ms. Small will deliver soon.
Local Color: Readability: Plot development:
<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
The flash of lights illuminated the darkened hallway. He didn’t know if the lights were from a patient’s monitor, or a crash cart, or something else but it didn’t matter. He maneuvered through the maze of sterile eggshell walls, one after the other, until he finally came to room 467. This is where they said Lucy was—for now anyway.
Chris raised his hand to knock on the door, but it opened before he was able and he stood, slackjawed, staring hard at the unfamiliar face of a man in a bleached white coat as he emerged from the room.
Doctor, his mind registered as he scanned, first the man’s face, then searched for a nametag.
“Hi,” he stuck his hand out, pulling the door shut behind him. “I’m Saul. Lucy’s sleeping, finally.”
“Chris.” He stuck out his hand to shake, feeling the grip tighten as their palms connected. Chris cleared his throat before letting his anxiety fuel the questions. “How is she? What’s wrong with her?”
“Are you family?” Saul’s eyebrow raised.
“Not technically,” Chris flinched. “But I’m her emergency contact—close as family.”
Saul crossed his arms over his chest and widened his stance. To Chris he seemed to be blocking the door to room 467 behind him. With ever-increasing adrenaline pumping in his veins, he felt the heat rise to his face as his muscles tensed.
Chris clinched his fingers together until he made a fist at his side. “Then get out of my way,” he muttered through clinched teeth. “I’ll ask Lucy myself.”
“I’m afraid I can’t let you do that,” Saul’s immovable frame blocked his entrance. “She’s resting now and visitor’s hours—“
“The hell you can’t,” Chris took a step forward, but the doors at the end of the hall flew open and his head jerked at the sound of his name on Susie St. James’ lips.
“Chris, thank God. How is she? What’s going on?” Lucy’s sister looked frantic; her eyes were filled with moisture and her hair was pulled into a mussed up, messy pony tail with a Cheerio stuck to the end of one strand.
“I don’t know,” Chris gritted as he pulled the Cheerio free. “They won’t tell me anything since I’m not family.” He glared at Saul, who still hadn’t moved from in front of the door.
“What,” Susie turned and faced Saul. “What’s going on? Where is Lucy?”
“She’s okay,” Saul said, tucking his clipboard under one arm now. “The doctor has been in to see her and she’s stable.”
“The doctor?” Chris looked at Saul, his eyes narrowing into slits. “But I thought—“
Saul didn’t wait for him to finish before continuing with, “She had two seizures. One while we were at dinner, then a second one on the way to the hospital. Although it is too soon to tell anything definitive yet—“
“You were at dinner?” Chris parroted him, his hands now crossed over his chest as he began connecting the dots.
“The doctor suspects, based on preliminary scans only, a brain tumor. We’ll know more after the MRI.”
Susie’s legs nearly gave way beneath her, but Chris reached out to steady her. With one hand under her elbow she pulled in a shaky breath, closing her eyes against the overwhelming possibilities.
“Don’t panic,” Saul reached out and touched her arm consolingly. “We don’t know enough yet to even be sure it’s a tumor. You should take it one day at a time.”
“Have you told Lucy yet?” Susie asked, her voice shaking.
Saul nodded. “She’s resting now.”
“Can we see her?” Susie asked, standing up a little straighter. Saul cleared his throat, hesitated, then nodded as he stepped aside. Chris didn’t exactly push him out of the way, but he did brush shoulders with him as he followed Susie into the room.
Lucy wasn’t sleeping. She was sitting up in bed, staring at a novel. Chris didn’t think she was reading, her eyes looked blank as she stared at the pages.
“Hey Luce,” Susie came in, sliding up to the bed. Lucy started, but the second she locked eyes with her sister, tears filled her eyes and spilled over her lids. “Oh baby.” Susie rushed in and enfolded her baby sister in her arms, setting aside the novel—A Ripple in the Water as she did so.
Lucy sobbed into her sister’s shoulder and Chris stood awkwardly in the background as Susie murmured soothing words to band aid the gaping wound the word ‘tumor’ had left on the room.
“I’m okay,” Lucy said, pulling back. “Sorry I fell apart like that. I just—“ she hiccupped and Susie laughed.
“You never could cry without getting the hiccups, even when you were a baby.”
“I know,” Lucy hiccupped again. “I’ve been trying to find time to read this novel for weeks now—carrying it around in my purse. I read the back of it and it looks so good! Fascinating and like a real drama—but this isn’t how I wanted to make the time.”
“They don’t know anything really, yet, Lucy,” Susie said again. “No need for us to get worked up.”
Chris admired her strength. Susie had always been that for Lucy, and even though he knew she was panicking herself, she hid it well for her sister’s sake.
“I know, but—“
“No buts,” Susie patted her leg. “We’ll take it one day at a time. Okay?”
Lucy took a deep breath, focusing on the rippling water in the photograph on the front of her novel. “Okay,” she breathed out.
But unlike in the small ripples photograph, Chris knew this was a rock thrown into their lake—and the ripples had just begun.