FOLLOW ME by Joanna Scott
â€śDoes it ring true to you if I say that your mother seemed to experience life with more intensity than most?â€ť
Reviewed by Danielle Bullen (JUL 29, 2009)
Joanna Scottâ€™s lyrical novel, Follow Me, traces the story of three generations of women and theirÂ family secrets. Sally Werner tells her life story to her granddaughter and namesake, who in turn serves as the frame narrator for the story.
The elder Sallyâ€™s saga begins in the 1940â€™s when her cousin rapes her. That act is the catalyst for her long and wandering story as she struggles to find her identity.
Scott guides the reader through Sallyâ€™s physical and emotional journeys. She is pregnant and unwilling to marry her cousin. She leaves her newborn boy in her house and runs. Sally runs until she comes to a town where no one knows her. Assuming a new identity, she works as a housekeeper for an elderly man, Mason. She settles into her new role, but the unexplained, undeniable urge to see if there is something better out there, leads her to flee again. â€śShe had to make a plan and start living a life that would run like [a] river towards happiness.â€ť
At Sallyâ€™s next stop, she found that happiness, but only fleetingly. For the first time in her young life, she falls in love. A tragic accident causes her to run away, again expecting a baby. She boards a bus and heads to a new city. In Rondo, Sally gets a job as a salesgirl, an apartment, and gives birth to a daughter.
Sallyâ€™s past catches up to her in shocking ways. As her daughter, Penelope grows up, she wonders what happened to the son she left. Over the years, Sally wrote letters and sent money home, none of which were answered. What she learns about how his fate has unexpectedly intertwined with hers and her daughterâ€™s and granddaughterâ€™s will leave the reader saddened and amazed, and more importantly, eager to turn the pages.
I do have a couple nitpicks about the book. Sally lives a happy, judgment free existence as a single-mother in a small-town in upstate New York in the early 1950â€™s.Â I find it a bit unrealistic that there was no scorn, or even gossip about her. Also, the novel frequently switches voice. At times, the reader is inside Sallyâ€™s head, at times observing her objectively, and at other times, the narrators are Sallyâ€™s daughter and granddaughter. These changes sometimes make it hard to focus on the story.
Scottâ€™s writing more than compensates for those small discrepancies. There is a lyrical quality to her prose. She is especially skilled at evoking a sense of place, like when she writesâ€śThere were passing fields lusher than the others, carpeted in velvet green. . .â€ť Scott also creates a protagonist readers sympathize with, and roots for, one of the hallmarks of a gripping novel. Readers will continue to turn the pages to find out her fate, and the fates of her daughter and granddaughter.
Follow Me is a rich, layered book from a skilled writer and I recommend it highly.
|AMAZON READER RATING:||from 17 readers|
|PUBLISHER:||Little, Brown and Company (April 22, 2009)|
|AMAZON PAGE:||Follow Me|
|AUTHOR WEBSITE:||Wikipedia page on Joanna Scott|
|MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION:||Read our review of Tourmaline by Joanna Scott
Other “three generations” books:
The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich
Golden Country by Jennifer Gilmore
Consequences by Penelope Lively
Leaving by Richard Dry
- Fading, My Parmacheene Belle (1987)
- The Closest Possible Union (1988)
- Arrogance (1990)
- Various Antidotes: Stories (1994)
- The Manikin (1996)
- Make Believe (2000)
- Tourmaline (October 2002)
- Liberation (November 2005)
- Everybody Loves Somebody (December 2006)
- Follow Me (April 2009)