FOLLOW ME by Joanna Scott

Book Quote:

“Does it ring true to you if I say that your mother seemed to experience life with more intensity than most?”

Book Review:

Reviewed by Danielle Bullen (JUL 29, 2009)

Joanna Scott’s lyrical novel, Follow Me, traces the story of three generations of women and their 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 Sally’s saga begins in the 1940’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 Sally’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. “She had to make a plan and start living a life that would run like [a] river towards happiness.”

At Sally’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.

Sally’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 daughter’s and granddaughter’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 1950’s. 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 Sally’s head, at times observing her objectively, and at other times, the narrators are Sally’s daughter and granddaughter. These changes sometimes make it hard to focus on the story.

Scott’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 writes“There were passing fields lusher than the others, carpeted in velvet green. . .” 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: stars-3-5from 17 readers
PUBLISHER: Little, Brown and Company (April 22, 2009)
REVIEWER: Danielle Bullen
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Wikipedia page on Joanna Scott
EXTRAS: Excerpt
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


July 29, 2009 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: Contemporary, Family Matters, NE & New York

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