Monday, August 15, 2011

In the Works by Val Brown

Publisher:             Blue Feather Books

In the Works is a story about making choices.  Adehm Trent is an executive with a company that owns Big Tree Paper Plant, the biggest employer in the small town of Wood Mill, California.  The plant has been cited by government inspectors for its waste water violating pollution requirements and Adehm is sent on a mission she doesn’t want.  Either she can fix the plant or close it down, which will save the company some money, but devastate the town.  Unemployment is rampant there and Adehm would like to save the jobs, but also impress the corporate leaders with her ability.  Her career has been her sole focus since losing her partner to cancer several years before and that success is what keeps her going.   

A small, but growing, company called Clearly Perfect Water Systems is hired to retool the plant so that it can treat the tainted waste water. Civil Engineer Anne Schneider and her business partner are struggling to make this company work and the Big Tree Paper Plant could be the job that catapults them into success, but Anne faces a personal crisis.  She will have to live in the town for six months to oversee the work, but she is leaving in Albuquerque her mother who is in poor health and her father who barely seems able to cope with what is going on.  As Adehm and Anne work together, they form a professional relationship based on respect for how each does her job and then a personal relationship.  When Anne is forced to return to Albuquerque before the job is completed, everything begins to spin out of control.  Just as Adehm is learning to trust again, Anne seems to be endangering everything – the factory, the town, their professional lives and their relationship.

This story has a very real feel to it.  Many people find themselves caught in a tug of war between the requirements of their jobs and the needs of their families.  How each person deals with that struggle defines who they are and how they relate to other people.  Likewise, people who are grieving the loss of a partner or family member sometimes bury themselves in their work as an escape from the pain that waits in an empty personal life.  In the Works deals with choices on numerous levels.  Adehm has choosen to let her professional life consume her personal one.  Anne is constantly forced to make choices between her company and her family, each with compelling reasons to need her, therefore making her yo-yo between them.  And the town of Wood Mill has chosen to vest its future in the survival of a single business, not an uncommon occurrence in many small towns.  Readers will identify with the decisions that all of these characters face and the pain that comes with the realization that not all of their choices may be reconciled.  Ultimately, the book is about learning what is truly important to you, which decisions can’t be avoided and how to live with the ones that you can’t change.

In the Works isn’t a long book, but it’s an intense one.  A lot of “meat” is crammed into the pages and there isn’t space for wasted scenes.  It’s an interesting story to read and one that will make the reader think.  That makes a good combination.

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