WHILE I’M FALLING by Laura Moriarty

Book Quote:

“All those years, when the girls were little, she had been doing what she loved. She had mothered with passion. She had comforted and dressed and bathed and taught her young daughters every day of the week, because she believed she could do it with more caring than anyone else in the world. And she had loved it all….”

Book Review:

Review by Eleanor Bukowsky (DEC 23, 2009)

In Laura Moriarty’s While I’m Falling, after twenty-six years of marriage, Veronica Von Holten’s parents, Dan and Natalie, are getting a divorce. Although she is a twenty-year old pre-med student, when Veronica hears the news, she reverts to acting like the little girl she once was. She morosely observes: “My parents were married when Reagan was president, when the first Bush was president, when Clinton was president, and then the second Bush as well. They had planned vacations, funerals, and my sister’s wedding, together.” Why must they split up now after having stayed together for so long?

Veronica knows that her parents have not always been on the same wavelength. Dan is a passionate trial lawyer “with a flair for drama” who is temperamental and tends to overanalyze everything. Her mom is a warm, nurturing, and sensitive soul who has always dedicated herself to taking care of her children, Veronica and Elise, and instilling in them a sense of self-worth. In addition, Natalie tended to both her own and Dan’s elderly mothers when they needed assistance. She has even looked after Bowzer, the family’s now ancient and ailing dog, whom Veronica begged for but then neglected. As time goes on, Dan and Natalie drift apart and a rather comical indiscretion on Natalie’s part has serious consequences. It is the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Veronica’s older sister, Elise, is a busy lawyer who lives in San Diego with her husband, far from Kansas City and the rest of her family. Therefore, Veronica has to deal with her angst in her own way. She confides in her new boyfriend, Tim, an engineering grad student who lends her a sympathetic ear. Unfortunately, she has difficulty concentrating on her studies, especially organic chemistry, and begins to rethink her decision to become a doctor. When Veronica learns that Natalie is having serious financial problems while the divorce settlement drags on, it dawns on her that even her stalwart mother may not be invulnerable. Veronica acknowledges, “I had grown up with her kindness, taking it for granted, using it up.”

While I’m Falling is a funny, touching, and engrossing novel about a family in crisis. The author develops each character fully, portraying his or her strengths and weaknesses with sympathy and understanding. Moriarty shows, with wry humor and compassion, how our mistakes come back to bite us. For example, when Veronica house sits for a thuggish fellow Jimmy, she messes up royally and pays the price. In addition, although Veronica gets some perks for looking after the girls in her dorm, she routinely neglects her responsibilities and treats her charges with callous indifference. Her behavior does not go unnoticed.

The author’s witty dialogue, crisp prose style, and well-constructed plot make this novel a pleasure to read. Veronica, the narrator, is funny, candid, and at times, painfully clueless. Natalie is a sensible and pragmatic person, whose altruism is matched by her willingness to endure the consequences of her actions with pride and dignity. Even the sometimes oblivious Veronica comes to realize that her mother, imperfect as she may be, is a terrific role model who is well worth emulating. To her credit, Moriarty does not offer pat conclusions; unqualified happy endings are the stuff of fairy tales, not real life. While I’m Falling is a story that illustrates how the dissolution of a long-standing marriage affects not just the man and woman involved, but also those who depend on them for emotional sustenance.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 58 readers
PUBLISHER: Hyperion; 1 edition (August 4, 2009)
REVIEWER: Eleanor Bukowsky
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Audio interview with Laura Moriarty
EXTRAS: Reading Guide
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December 23, 2009 · Judi Clark · One Comment
Tags: ,  · Posted in: 2009 Favorites, Contemporary, Family Matters, Humorous

One Response

  1. Family and College: While I’m Falling by Laura Moriarty | wrapped up in books - January 13, 2014

    […] Mostly Fiction Book Review: “While I’m Falling is a funny, touching, and engrossing novel about a family in crisis. The author develops each character fully, portraying his or her strengths and weaknesses with sympathy and understanding.” […]

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