Saturday, August 13, 2011
Blessed Twice by Lynn Galli
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Blessed Twice is a novel about experiencing life-shattering tragedy and discovering that you can survive it. Life goes on, though it may take a supreme effort to deal with it.
Briony Gatewood lost her partner Megan in a rock-climbing accident three years ago. She and her son Caleb have struggled through their grief and Briony is finally ready to move on with living. To try and make a new start, Briony has moved them from Vermont and all of their familiar surroundings and family to Charlottesville, Virginia, where she is a professor at the university. It's there that she meets M Desiderius who is as successful and interactive with her students as she is aloof and nonengaged with the staff.
When both women are "volunteered" to work on a project in summer school, Briony discovers that M is withdrawn because she is shy. As they get to know each other better, it's revealed that M had a terrible early life that makes her unable to interact with people naturally. Briony realizes slowly that she is falling in love with the brilliant and tortured woman, but she also knows that any relationship they can hope to have is going to take a great deal of work and patience on her part. She sees a second chance at love if she can help M break out of the protective shell she's built around herself.
Galli has set another book in familiar surroundings with a supporting cast of characters she's introduced before. The group of lesbian friends she created living in Charlottesville has provided her with more than one story. That is the slight drawback to the book. References are made to previous events in these character's lives that may not be completely understood by people who haven't read the other books; however, the book focuses on Briony and M, so the other references don't distract from the central story.
The rest of the book is skillfully developed as Galli deals with Briony's emotions as she tries to get over losing Meg and raise their young son properly. There is a lot of humor injected when Briony's friends decide to set her up with various women they know and she has to endure a series of "dates from hell." It's appallingly obvious to Briony and the reader why these women are still single and inappropriate matches, so the wonder is that her friends don't see it.
There's also an on-going joke as Briony tries to guess what M stands for and gets no help from M herself. M is the truly interesting character as a person who is so traumatized by her childhood that the simple touch of another person causes her excruciating pain. The "therapy" she dabbles with to overcome these feelings gives a view into the world of dominance and submission that is both informative and disturbing. The strength of the book is that Galli doesn't rush the development of the characters and the situations. These aren't two women who are destined to fall into bed the first time they're alone and they don't. They have to work to build the trust that will make any relationship possible and that takes time.
Blessed Twice is an interesting story about a couple that doesn't fit the normal pattern. That makes it refreshing and worth reading.