Written By: Dale M. Kushner
Published By: Grand Central Publishing, May 2013
Length: 384 Pages
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: The Conditions of Love traces the journey of a girl from childhood to adulthood as she reckons with her parents’ abandonment, her need to break from society’s limitations, and her overwhelming desire for spiritual and erotic love. In 1953, ten-year-old Eunice lives in the backwaters of Wisconsin with her outrageously narcissistic mother, a manicureeste and movie star worshipper. Abandoned by her father as an infant, Eunice worries that she will become a misfit like her mother. When her mother’s lover, the devoted Sam, moves in, Eunice imagines her life will finally become normal. But her hope dissolves when Sam gets kicked out, and she is again alone with her mother. A freak storm sends Eunice away from all things familiar. Rescued by the shaman-like Rose, Eunice’s odyssey continues with a stay in a hermit’s shack and ends with a passionate love affair with an older man. Through her capacity to redefine herself, reject bitterness and keep her heart open, she survives and flourishes. In this, she is both ordinary and heroic. At once fable and realistic story, The Conditions of Love is a book about emotional and physical survival. Through sheer force of will, Eunice saves herself from a doomed life.
This engaging examination of a mother and daughter’s relationship will appeal to the same audience that embraced Mona Simpson’s acclaimed classic Anywhere But Here and Elizabeth Strout’s bestselling Amy and Isabelle.
My Thoughts: From the beginning of this book you want to swoop in and rescue Eunice from her diffult life. Dale Kushner has written such detailed and gut wrenching scenes, that my heart ached for the young child. Eunice’s mother doesn’t wish to be a mother, and insists she call her Mern, her first name. Eunice learns quickly that a feeling of comfort is fleeting. She doesn’t know her father, and her mother has frequent but short lived boyfriends. Mern is afraid of a good man, and does all she can to put an end to one caring for her.
The turbulent storm and flooding that leave Eunice homeless and orphaned is almost like a metaphor for her life to that point. The independent, living of the grid woman, Rose, takes Eunice in, and shows her a nurturing and respect she’s never known. They both know that if she is found that social services will take her away.
Eunice’s life is the constant yearning for love and acceptance. She finds comfort in small relationships like the one she has with a pet turtle. She also seems to suffer more loss than any young person should.
The growth and development of Eunice is both sad and yet satisfying, she does suffer, but it creates in her a more empathetic person. She will hold on and cherish love like no other when she finally grows and has the real thing.
When I finally began to love this book, about 40 pages in, I couldn’t stop reading it. I was praying for Eunice’s happiness and safely, so much of her life she appeared to be in great peril. The setting of the book in the 1950’s and early 1960’s was so integral to the story and it was fascinating to realize how easy it was for people to be separated in that time. This is Dale M. Kushner‘s first novel, and I’ll be looking for her next book. I highly recommend this book, I don’t think it’s had enough attention, and it’s now available in paperback
Thanks to the publisher I’m able to giveaway one copy The Conditions of Love, open to US and Canadian addresses. Please leave a comment and tell me how love and loss have touched your life. Please leave your email in the comment so I can contact you. Contest open until midnight Monday May 19, 2014.
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for including me, and please visit these other stops on the tour.