Review: In Between Days

In Between Days

In Between Days
By Andrew Porter
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780307273512, September 2012, 336pp.)

The Short of It:

Nothing is easy when a man’s family falls apart.

The Rest of It:

I love dysfunction. Love it. I’d eat it up if it was on a plate in front of me. There is something fascinating about watching a family disintegrate before your eyes. Especially when you are doing it from the comfort of your home with happy “family” sounds in the background.  The family portrayed in this book could be friends of mine, or the neighbors across the street. There is a realness to them that could not be ignored and that’s why I think I liked the book so much.

The story centers around the Harding family, Elson, a struggling architect, his ex-wife Cadence, his gay poet son Richard and his wayward daughter, Chloe. The fallout of their divorce is still lingering in the air, but both Elson and Cadence try their best to move on by starting relationships with other people. But it’s awkward for both of them. Cadence, having known nothing else but the role of mother and wife is now trying to understand who she is. And Elson, struggling both at work and at home, drowns his pain in drink. In the mean time, Richard doesn’t seem to be comfortable in his own skin and Chloe has been suspended from college for something that remains a mystery throughout most of the story.

As with most families, they come together in crisis and the crisis here is Chloe and her suspension from school. Ultimately, Elson is a good father. He loves his kids and realizes the mistakes he’s made, but his movements going forward are complicated by his current love interest and the fact that in the back of his mind, he still loves Cadence. There is a little piece of Cadence that still loves him too, but it’s buried beneath years of resentment and frankly, there’s little time to explore it because Chloe’s situation proves to be a lot more serious than they originally thought. So serious in fact that Chloe disappears.

The mystery surrounding Chloe and her disappearance is strung out through most of the novel. The reader is given clues along the way. Enough to keep you reading and Elson’s frustration and concern over the matter is palpable. Chloe frustrated the hell out of me. She comes across as an immature, privileged little college girl. She’s oblivious to the fact that her entire family is worried sick about her and yet she continues to make bad decisions. I realized at some point, that although Chloe’s situation seems to go on for most of the novel, it’s really not at all what the novel is about. What happens with Chloe is secondary to what happens to the family that is left behind. The collapse of a family is what this novel is about and Porter captures that well.

My one complaint is the setting. The story is set in Houston but that doesn’t come across at all in the telling. In fact, there are a couple of references that made me think the story was set in Los Angeles. The mention of one fast food restaurant and a very popular (quaint) neighborhood made me go back in the book to see if I had been mistaken about the setting. This was a bit of a letdown. Only because I so often look for a sense of place in a story and here, especially when it comes to Chloe’s disappearance, I didn’t get that.

Even with my little quibble above, I must say that I enjoyed this book quite a bit. The writing is genuine and effortless. It’s Porter’s first novel but I’ll be on the lookout for future books.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

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15 thoughts on “Review: In Between Days”

  1. i enjoy reading debut novels and this sounds like one I shouldn’t miss. I don’t love books with a lot of heartbreak and tears, but the mystery Chloe’s disappearance intrigues me. I appreciate your point about ‘sense of place’. That is something I really enjoy when reading a book. I love when the locale actually is part of the book and is almost like a character in itself. Love that!!! I’ll be on the lookout for this one!

    1. This one manages not to be sad. Mostly because the divorce has already happened and they are just in the process of accepting it and moving on. I think the author did a good job of conveying the love they have for each other, even though the marriage didn’t work out.

  2. I like a good dysfunctional family story every now and then too, and it seems like this is a really complex and layered one. I do get the whole absorbed college kid thing too, and though it drives me nuts, it’s all very realistic. I’m glad that you loved it and that you let me know that I should be looking for it as well. Nice job with this review. No spoilers, but plenty of intensity.

    1. I sort of got the feel that he called it Houston, but that he was living in Los Angeles when he wrote it. I didn’t see anything to prove that though. Could have just been a restaurant with the same name… a neighborhood with the same name, etc.

  3. Dysfunction gets on my nerves because it seems like every book revolves around it. Every family/relationship is falling apart. I can be lured to read about it though if the writing is really good, but I can’t take too much of it or I find myself going into a funk!

  4. I can’t believe I read this book…but I did! Loved your review…I was creeped out by some of these characters but I still liked the book!

  5. I’ve kind of started to shy away from dysfunctional family stories – so many of them can be so over the top. This one sounds as though it’s really well done and one I will give a try.

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