Review: Waiting by Carol Lynch Williams

Waiting cover image

Waiting by Carol Lynch Williams. Paula Wiseman Books. 5/1/2012

Growing up, London and Zach were as close as could be. And then Zach dies, and the family is gutted. London’s father is distant. Her mother won’t speak. The days are filled with what-ifs and whispers: Was it London’s fault?

Alone and adrift, London finds herself torn between her brother’s best friend and the handsome new boy in town as she struggles to find herself—and ultimately redemption—in this authentic and affecting novel from award-winning novelist Carol Lynch Williams. * 

Back in February, I blogged about receiving a big batch of ARCs in the mailfrom whatchYAreading? and promised to review each ARC as I read it (as close to the publication date as possible). Today, on May 1, Waiting by Carol Lynch Williams was published.

I stayed up all night to read this book (I’m kind of a middle-of-the-night reader), and I couldn’t put it down for two reasons. First, the prose style is quick — Williams puts the reader very deep in London’s head, and on occasion a single page is single sentence thought. Second, the unraveling of the plot and the emotions is slow, but intense, and I didn’t want to abandon either London or Zach in the middle of their heartbreaking story. But let’s get on the particulars, eh?

The PLOT

This is a Christian novel, but it is not a hand-comes-out-of-page-to-slap-you-in-the-face-with-Christianity Christian novel. Zach and London are the children of missionaries, and each character has a personal (read: therefore different) relationship with Jesus and God. There are several secondary characters and families in this novel who are also Christian, who are a part of the Church social circle, and collectively & individually those folks have a personal relationships with Jesus and God. This is not, however, a preachy novel. I wouldn’t classify Waiting as an evangelical novel. It’s a novel with Christians at its center, and one of them has completely lost faith & love (the mother), and one of them hides, literally, at the church (the father), and one of them can’t quite figure out how to find comfort in two dead people — Jesus & Zach (London).

The plot isn’t so much active as it is pensive, but the novel is engaging and does move forward at a good pace. London is deep inside her own head in the beginning, and so are we, and as she tries to emerge from her silent bubble, we begin to understand what’s happening around her with her family and with her friends. London is a master of burying secrets, from the reader and from herself, and as she begins to interact with the other main characters again–Taylor (her brother’s best friend) and Lauren (her best friend)–we begin to see that while she didn’t exactly lie, she left out large pieces of the truth. The reveals aren’t shocking or irritating, though, and I was never once upset or annoyed with London for being unable to tell the story straight. There was an honesty in how London was able to put the events around Zach’s death back together again.

The NARRATOR

As this novel is sunk so deep in London’s mind, I’m pretty sure I covered much of what could be said about London as a narrator in the plot section. The plot is tied inseparably to London’s mind, and the most fascinating aspects of this novel were to see how little bits of dialogue with other characters changed London’s thoughts and forced her to reconcile a new piece of the puzzle around Zach’s death. She had buried much of his death so deep — much like her mother and father — but unlike with them, we see people trying to ease London out of her silent reverie.

London’s change from the beginning of the novel to the end of the novel is honest and saddening and sweet all at once. Her realizations about those who love her and those who can’t love her anymore is both heartbreaking and heart-healing all at once, and those are emotions London feels so deeply in this novel. Being so set in her mind, Williams makes it impossible to escape the sometimes throat-closing pain and lonliness felt my London, which very slowly becomes replaced once again by a liveliness.

My FINAL THOUGHTS

A little past half way, London has this revelation: she is still alive. What this moment means in the novel is incredible, and it’s a simple revelation with serious and lasting impacts on every single person around her. How this moment acts as a contrast to Zach’s death, and his void, is a subtle but brilliant stroke of story-telling by Williams. So I put here so you’ll be sure to watch for it.

Perhaps my favorite part of this whole novel is how central each individual person is to the people who are in their lives. In a way, each individual is a little center of their own universe, and it’s unavoidable that our choices will create waves that will affect those closest to us the most and those farthest from us the least. London and Zach create very different waves, but they are like two stone thrown into a pond at a very close distance — their waves inevitably overlap and push back on one another.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

* Summary from barnesandnoble.com

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