Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Leaving Paradise, by Simone Elkeles

After nearly a year in jail, Caleb is eager to get home. One night a year ago, he got drunk and behind the wheel, and he ran over a girl. The girl was his next door neighbor and his twin sister's best friend Maggie. And as eager as he is to come home, she's equally obsessed with never seeing him again. Once upon a time, they were close friends, but because of the accident, everything has changed.
Nothing goes as either of them plan. Caleb returns to a family and a town that can't forgive him for what he did and Maggie, who must live with the injuries she sustained, has lost even more. But a series of coincidences (and a few convenient twists only found in novels) send the two of them towards a reconciliation.

While I could see where this story was heading for the most part, I didn't really mind the manipulation of the story as it allowed me to explore the complex process of forgiveness. And the story had a certain poetic quality that I enjoyed reading. However, a startling -- and quite unnecessary -- plot twist on page 230 sent the story out the window. It was as if, after writing a completely predictable romance, Elkeles panicked and decided that the best thing to do would be to totally take the story off the deep end. It certainly suprised me, but it didn't make sense. Without giving away the ending, let's just say that there is a terribly neglected storyline about the relationship between Maggie and Caleb's sister. Perhaps if it had been explored a bit, I might have found the plot twist to be more believable.

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