Tag Archives: Jennifer Vanderbes

Review: The Secret of Raven Point

The Secret of Raven Point

The Secret of Raven Point
By Jennifer Vanderbes
(Scribner, Hardcover, 9781439167007, February 11, 2014, 320pp.)

The Short of It:

The Secret of Raven Point is a novel that effortlessly captures the pain and heartbreak of a world at war.

The Rest of It:

When Juliet receives a letter from her brother Tuck, pleading for help and then he goes missing while fighting overseas, Juliet lies about her age so she can volunteer as a nurse. Her hope is to be stationed by him so that she can find him, or at least find out what happened to him. While stationed just north of Rome, she comes in contact with a patient named Christopher Barnaby. Barnaby is awaiting trial for desertion and is suffering from self-inflicted injuries which has rendered him unconscious, but while undergoing a procedure, he briefly mentions Tuck which gives Juliet hope that her brother is still alive.

It’s a horrible thing to admit, but I do not like books about war. I often find them to be depressing and over-worked. But, I loved Strangers at the Feast, which was my first experience reading Vanderbes. That book had nothing to do with war, but I was so impressed with the writing that I couldn’t pass up another opportunity to read her work.

After just a few chapters, I realized that this was not your typical tale of lost love. This story centers around a brother and sister and although there are a few romantic encounters with people that Juliet meets, the book isn’t about them and instead, focuses on the love Juliet has for her brother. This was refreshing to me and not what I expected. Plus, Juliet is quite level-headed for such a young girl. She’s willful and determined and a little stubborn but essentially driven by her need to find Tuck.

As a nurse, she sees the horrors of war first hand. There are numerous amputees and men that are so damaged mentally, that they will never be able to return to the life they once knew. She befriends doctors and nurses and learns from them, but at the same time, becomes worn down from the routine of it all. Desperate to find her brother, she spends much of her time with Christopher Barnaby, the patient who seems to hold the clues to her brother’s whereabouts.

I read to escape, and this book took me to another time and place. The depictions of war are shown through the evidence of its aftermath. You see war, through Juliet’s eyes and it’s heartbreaking to see so many young men lose their lives fighting for a war that they don’t even fully understand. This experience changes Juliet forever and the realization of that, of youth lost, of the memories that she will never be able to shake, is what makes this such a tragic tale. However, the story remains hopeful even to the end.

My one criticism, is that I was taken out of the narrative once or twice during the procedures that Barnaby underwent. I don’t know what went on in those medical tents during the war but I had trouble believing that such a procedure was even possible. That part seemed a little too convenient and I worried about how the story would end, but once I got to those final pages, I was happy to discover a realistic conclusion.

If you haven’t read Vanderbes before, I suggest you give her a try. She has a way of putting the reader right at the heart of the story and although I am sure it takes much skill to do this, she appears to do it effortlessly which makes me admire her all the more.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher/author.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Strangers at the Feast

Strangers at the Feast Book Cover 

Strangers at the Feast
By Jennifer Vanderbes
Simon & Schuster
August 2010

*No Spoilers* 

The Short of It: 

Just like a runaway train, Strangers at the Feast picks up speed and hurls you toward its dramatic conclusion. You won’t be able to put this one down. 

The Rest of It: 

It’s Thanksgiving day. Ginny, has invited her parents, her brother, his wife and their three kids to enjoy dinner in her new home. Ginny, single and an academic sort at that, is not well-versed in the kitchen, but is excited about hosting such an important meal. The others are excited about the prospect of seeing her new home, but they have their doubts over how successful the dinner will be. 

While waiting for dinner, each character has time to reflect on the past.  The story is told through alternating points of view, whereas each chapter is dedicated to a character in the story. As the story progresses, it’s clear that the meal is anything but traditional and that there are larger issues to consider. 

The mere mention of Thanksgiving brings many images to mind. The glistening bird, the mounds of mashed potatoes, the gravy boats and…the drama. You know what I am talking about. Where Aunt Jolene drank a little bit too much wine and ended up out by the trash cans, or how that bird may have looked perfectly roasted on the outside, but really wasn’t.  It happens. As much as I love Thanksgiving, there is also a little piece of me that dreads it as well. Vanderbes has written a novel that somehow encapsulates that exact feeling of dread. Family dynamics, intimate secrets, it’s all here. 

As the tension mounts, you know something is going to happen, but what? Well, I won’t share anything else because I want you to read it for yourself but Vanderbes does not disappoint. The writing is tight, the pace is gripping, and the characters are worth remembering. I was very excited to receive this book and once I cracked it open, I could not put it down.

What I especially admire is that this isn’t JUST a page-turner, this is a book with a message. If you’re a fan of well-constructed stories, ones that unfold like a three-act play, are page-turners and include well-developed, conflicted characters, then there is no doubt in my mind that you will enjoy Strangers at the Feast.

I’m adding this one to my list of faves for 2010.

Source: This review copy was sent to me by the publisher.