Season Of Shadow And Light
Jenn J. McLeod
Simon & Schuster AUS
Uncorrected proof copy courtesy of the publisher
A post-partum stroke has robbed Paige, a professional food reviewer of both her sense of smell and taste, rendering her unable to work. Her marriage is also on the rocks, despite their privileged lifestyle in Sydney and Paige has only her beloved daughter Matilda and the woman known as Nana Alice to turn to. She decides to take a holiday – she needs to get out of Sydney, she needs some time away from her husband. A chance discovery of a photo from long ago leads Paige on a quest to find what happened with her mother decades ago, despite Nana Alice’s attempts to dissuade her.
Along the way bad weather sees them stranded in Coolabah Tree Gully to avoid rising floodwaters. Paige takes a liking to the town and decides to stay, using it as an excuse to take some time out while she attempts to solve the family mystery. In Coolabah Tree Gully, Paige finds somewhere she and Matilda can really call home, more so than the large house in Sydney. Matilda makes friends and Paige finds that after her husband’s infidelity maybe she isn’t interested in a reconciliation. Here she has the chance to heal the rifts of a lifetime and make a new way for herself and those dear to her.
Season Of Shadow And Light is Jenn J. McLeod’s third novel and for me, she just keeps getting better with each release. I was lucky enough to be able to read this one early and had to read it on my computer. I hate reading on my computer, I really do but this one kept me utterly engrossed and I ended up finishing it in a day. From start to finish I was sucked into Paige’s world and her quest for the truth about her family.
Paige suffered a late term pregnancy loss and then a post-partum stroke thereafter. She didn’t get to take her little baby home from the hospital and she is still feeling the effects of the stroke. She can’t smell or taste, which as a food critic and reviewer, means she cannot really work. Her husband Robert has become increasingly distant, their marriage slowly falling apart and Paige seems lost. She has Matilda, her six year old daughter to focus on as well as Nana Alice, the partner of Paige’s deceased mother. Two years after the stillbirth, Paige still suffers nightmares, ones that she keeps to herself. When she discovers something about her husband, it’s the perfect excuse to get away, to maybe try and investigate the secrets she felt were being kept from her.
Season Of Shadow And Light is a lot of things – a mystery, a story of personal growth, a family saga, a gentle romance. It’s an exploration of love and loss as well as some tough issues, such as the late term child loss and complications arising from Paige’s stroke. There’s a very delicate constructed relationship between Paige and “Nana Alice”, the woman that loved Paige’s mother and rolled up her sleeves to take over the full time parenting role when Paige’s mother died when Paige was 12. Nana Alice has acted as mother-but-isn’t-quite and now grandmother to Matilda but she also made a promise to Paige’s mother to keep the secrets. Paige is now utterly desperate to know, which puts them at odds sometimes but you can still tell that under that exterior, they care for one another. I loved their relationship, which was portrayed so realistically because they have plenty of spats and Nana Alice has plenty of misgivings about precisely what Paige is doing taking this holiday when she should be sorting things out with her husband and she attempt to get her to go home many times. I came to understand Alice’s fear as well, her determination to keep the secrets she had promised.
I really enjoyed the setting of this book as well as the local characters that Paige meets when she arrives at Coolabah Tree Gully. At first she has no real desire to stay there but she’s cut off from her real destination by rising floodwaters and so accepts local accommodation. She begins to create friendships, connections with the locals and even the possibility of romance with Aiden, a chef from the city who is dubbed ‘Grumpy Draws’ for his somewhat brusque manner. That part of the plot was a lot of fun and I found myself warming up to Aiden very quickly.
The further you get into this book, the more intriguing and multi-layered it becomes as a mysterious character named Aurora (Rory) returns and Paige begins to attempt to put together the mystery that surrounds her family and get to the bottom of the strange dreams she’s been having since she lost her baby. There was so much going on here and puzzling out all of the pieces and watching Paige grow as a person, find a place where she could be happy was a truly enjoyable reading experience.
Book #14 of 2015
This review is part of the Season Of Shadow and Light blog tour. Make sure you stop by all of the other blogs taking part and read their thoughts as well.
This review counts towards my Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2015. It was book #3