Chokecherry (book review)
Forty-one year old Dana Quinn, a closet writer, career waitress and three-time psych ward patient has just lost her last family member. For Dana to go on, she must create a life meaningful enough to answer her eternal question: why did she alone survive the accident that killed her family? That's a tall order for someone who's barely managed to exist. Never married, in and out of an institution where only her writing saved her, Dana works a dismal job with a few friends she's managed to keep at a safe distance.
Lost and hopeless in the weeks following Aunt Irma's unexpected death, Dana discovers a letter and takes her aunt's advice to walk away from her life in Queens and return to her family farm to write herself well one more time. For over thirty years Dana's believed the farm was sold and did her best to forget it. But what if everything in the house is frozen in time exactly the way they left it? Nothing can stop her from walking through that door. On the road she adopts a one-eared dog and finds a new best friend in Iowan-turned-New Yorker, Stu, who's given up designing off-Broadway sets to care for his ailing mother back in his tiny hometown.
Chokecherry, her father's beloved farm, is not at all what Dana expects and far more than she bargains for. By firelight, Malcolm reveals the cryptic history buried in the tunnel, and why the big barn strikes fear in the hearts of those who enter it. Despite its tragic past, the farm also possesses an undeniable capacity to heal the broken. In fact, it seems to be a magnet for broken hearts. Just as Dana and her friends form a tight bond and rise to the challenge of helping Chokecherry realize its true potential, a supernatural ability she's failed to repress for years, nearly kills her. Dana's forced to fight for a life she wants--a life that finally answers her eternal question in ways she never could've imagined.
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There was so much that I loved about Chokecherry. I'm not even sure where to begin. I think it comes down to the relationships. While just about every character in the book has been broken in some way... and has spent a lot of their separate lives so utterly lost, or stuck... when they come together there is magic. Dana's Aunt Irma has died on the first page of the book, but still the author makes you fully aware of the strong relationship between the 2 women. The fast friendship Dana creates with Stu leaves me envious. The awkwardness between Dana and Malcolm was so perfectly described that I felt it myself, and wondered if they would ever overcome their shared losses to become friends. The relationship that Dana has with her family (even 31 years after their tragic deaths) is so strong... and truly is the driving force of who she is... both broken and courageous (even if she doesn't feel it). Even the "lesser" relationships are written in such a way that they truly pulled at my heart (between Stu and his mother; between Malcolm and Stu; between Malcolm and Dana's family). Sheri Meshal absolutely knows how to write a character that draws you in and makes you believe. Days after finishing the book I still find myself thinking about these people.
Oh... and the visual descriptions of the locations were perfection. I have complete pictures in my head of what the Chokecherry farm would look like. The white picket fence... the lilac bushes... the ramshackle barn and farm buildings... the huge tree and tire swing... it's all so vivid. So real.
In my mind Chokecherry could easily have been expanded into a trilogy. There just wasn't enough. I want more! It was easily one of my favorite books this year.
About the Author
Sheri Meshal spent most of her childhood on an old farm in Iowa. She is an author by day and chauffeur by night... for a tad bit longer. She inherited her lifelong love of books from her father, who sensed she was a writer long before she did, and changed the course of her life by telling her so. Her debut novel, Swallowtail, took over six years to write and was inspired by bizarre events which occurred shortly after her father's passing in 1998. Best friends, they'd engaged in countless conversations regarding the possibility of life after death.
A minimalist, Sheri currently lives in Chicago sans furniture with her dog, Kylee and her roommate and fellow writer, Mack Oliver. When she isn't writing, she's traveling and spending time with her nieces and nephews every chance she gets.
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I received this book to review through Beck Valley Books Book Tours, all the opinions above are 100% my own.