I’ve been reading more family dramas this year for what it’s worth. I find them a nice addition to my normal group of books. Hard Cider by Barbara Stark – Nemon was sent to me from She Writes Press at no charge for my honest review.
About Hard Cider:
Abbie Rose Stone’s acquired wisdom runs deep, and so do her scars. She has successfully navigated the shoals of a long marriage, infertility, challenging children, and a career. Now it’s her turn to realize her dream: producing hard apple cider along the northern shores of Lake Michigan that she loves. She manages to resist new versions of the old pull of family dynamics that threaten to derail her plan―but nothing can protect her from the shock a lovely young stranger delivers when she exposes a long-held secret. In the wake of this revelation, Abbie must overcome circumstances that severely test her self-determination, her loyalties, and her understanding of what constitutes true family.
About the Author:
Barbara Stark-Nemon, author of the award-winning novel Even in Darkness, lives, writes, cycles, swims, and gardens in Ann Arbor and Northport, Michigan. Degrees in English literature, art history and speech-language pathology from the University of Michigan led to a career as a teacher and speech therapist working with deaf children. Stark-Nemon writes novels, short stories, essays, and articles.
The book opens with a frightening scene; a house is on fire and the family is outside watching it burn. Fortunately no one was hurt but they lost all that they owned. It was determined to be an arson. This is one trial that is visited upon Abbie and her husband as they navigate infertility, IVF, adoption, surrogacy and an empty nest.
As Abbie retires and enters her 50ies she decides to pursue a lifelong interest in making hard cider. This is a passion that she alone has – her husband does not feel it’s something that will work. He is not stopping her but he is not supporting her either. Her decision to research and start the groundwork for the business has her living at their lake house while her husband continues to work and live in Ann Arbor which is 4+ hours away.
Abbie and Steven have three children; all boys, two adopted and one through IVF. All have moved out of the house but two are still relatively close by. Abbie wants her one son to move back to Michigan and therefore she is trying to interest him in the cider business but he isn’t biting. There are many (many, many) allusions in the story to his having been a difficult child but no real explanations = this is one of the several threads left hanging.
As she pushes forward with her apple education and desire to see this through Abbie meets a young woman who has a more than passing interest in her family. The whys of that form a whole other thread that forms the back third of the plot. Some of the story is resolved but again, a lot of questions remain.
These unanswered questions are my biggest complaint with the book. Why bring up the arson at the start of the book if it has no bearing on the story? Why keep hinting at the son’s temperament if no flashbacks to his childhood are forthcoming to explain. It’s like the author dropped all of these bits of information and let them float aimlessly through the story to make the reader think about them but left them with no anchor. I kept looking for answers that just didn’t come.
I will note that Ms. Stark-Nemon has a real skill with words. I found myself quite lost in her descriptions of apple pruning of all things. She obviously did her research on the growing of apples and the making of cider. I’ve pressed apples and made both sweet cider and hard cider myself so I understood the process on its most basic, at home level.
Overall though, this was not a book for me. It might well be a book for someone who cares less about having questions answered and wanting to know everything about the characters. It was a very fast read – I’ll note that.