Review: Safe Within by Jean Reynolds Page

June 12, 2012 Review, William Morrow, Women's Fiction 3

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Original edition (June 12, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0061876941
  • Source: Publisher

Elaine and her husband Carson have returned to her childhood home, a cabin nestled in the trees by a lake in North Carolina, so Carson may live out his final days in peace. At just 49 years old, Carson’s body has succumbed to pancreatic cancer. Their peace is disturbed when they learn that Greta, Carson’s mother, has let loose a group of alpacas that live in the land next to hers. They haven’t spoken to Greta in over twenty years. Greta is certain that their son, Mick, isn’t Carson’s and hasn’t forgiven Elaine for her perceived indiscretions.

When Carson passes, Elaine and Mick are forced to coexist in a world with a woman who fails to accept them. She refuses to acknowledge their existence, going so far as to avoid them at Carson’s funeral. As they are trying to heal and learn to move on, Mick uncovers questions of his own involving a local girl he dated years prior. In order to adjust to this new life that has been thrust upon them, both Elaine and Mick are forced to prove their integrity and innocence. In Elaine’s case it’s far easier, for the man who is perceived to be Mick’s biological father is still living and willing to come forth and reveal his own secrets at a severely high cost. In Mick’s case, however, he is willing to taint his name in order to protect and secure a future for other more innocent individuals involved.

Safe Within is a truly detailed character study in how small town living and the close-knit relationships that form, and the after affects, can truly change and impact an individual. Told in alternating time frames, the current and the past, readers get a glimpse inside the lives of all the major characters. In many novels, the alternating time frame is clearly discernible due to obvious breaks in chapters in passages. That’s not necessarily the case in this novel. It wasn’t until several paragraphs were read that I noted the shift in focus and was therefore forced to backtrack to reread the passages.

Additionally, while the characters were richly detailed, I had a hard time connecting with any of them. Perhaps if a bit more of their life immediately preceding Carson’s death was detailed I could have formed more of a bond with each of them. Also, there thing that were brought up and touched on, specifically mysterious blue lights in the sky at the time of Carson’s death, that I feel should have been developed further.

This is not to say that I did not enjoy this novel, I did. It truly did a successful job of examining small town family life and some of the issues that arise at the passing of a loved one.  Additionally, the setting was familiar to me; my summer has spent our summers in North Carolina for the past decade. This familiarity with the setting allowed me to become immersed in the story. While the page length, just over 350 pages, may seem daunting for a summer read, I do predict it popping in book club discussions due to the number of prevalence of discussion worthy topics.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to participate in this tour. Please check out the official tour page for more information on the author as well as the other stops in the tour.


3 Responses to “Review: Safe Within by Jean Reynolds Page”

  1. Karen White
    Twitter: karenwhitereads

    Where do you go in the summers? My parents are in Chapel Hill, and we go to the beach at Oak Island, though I love the Asheville area too…
    I will definitely check this one out.

    • Jenn
      Twitter: jennbookshelves

      My father-in-law is from Durham so we go there for at least a week each summer. They have a house there that has been in the family for generations.

  2. Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours
    Twitter: age30books

    I love it when I can connect with the setting of a book the way you did with this one.

    Thanks for being on the tour Jenn! BTW, I’ve loved checking out the BEA pics from the Penguin booth – what fun!