Book Review – Other Loves
218 Page paperback
Levi Montgomery’s Other Loves is the best independently published book I’ve read. It’s actually the second book by Levi that I’ve read, the first was Cursing the Cougar which was the second best independently published book I’ve read. I guess you can say I’ve become a Levi Montgomery fan.
Other Loves is a collection of four novellas, linked by the theme that Levi calls ‘coming of age’ but I would consider to simply be love. How we find it, how it finds us, and how we lose it again. Most of his characters are young, like Duncan in the first novella called The Summer of Being. Duncan meets Nikki while both of their families are on a vacation to the beach. He has never heard of a summer romance, but at the tender age of 17 he finds himself in the middle of one.
I was trying to come up with a good way to explain why exactly I like the writing, but probably the best way is to share an excerpt. In this small snippet, Nikki has just finished telling Duncan about losing her father:
“After a few minutes, she pulls away, snuffling and wiping her face with her hands, and he lets her be. She just breathes for a while, gazing out across the water like she’s seeing something. He doesn’t bother looking for it. Whatever she’s looking at isn’t anything he could see if he looked. He’s got the little stick in his hands now, peeling all the dry bark off of it, splitting it open, scraping out all the pith. She takes a long time, and he’s nibbling little chunks off the stick with his thumbnail when she speaks again.”
It’s someplace I’ve been, fiddling with a stick while someone told me something emotional, just sharing their moment with them. The words aren’t big, but the way they are strung together weaves a compelling story with rich description and universal themes like love and loss and playing chess with a knight that is the wheelbarrow from a monopoly set.
The other novellas are just as good, just as tightly written and fun to read. Morry is 42 but he might as well be 80, his life ended when his wife died from cancer. His rut allows for very little improvisation so having a widow move into the apartment below him, one intent on getting to know him and not letting him ignore her, well that’s just a little too much like living life for comfort. His story is the second one.
I had to write to Levi about the third story, because when I got to it, I felt like the wheels had come off. ‘Here we go’ I thought to myself, ‘some indie author’s lame attempt at being the next Tolkien.’ Man, was I wrong. Yes, The Bumbler’s Apprentice is full of made up words and magic and sorcery, but it’s just an elaborate prop for a nice little love story, smack dab in the middle of it. The odd thing is, after I read it I even found myself enjoying the magic parts. It wasn’t over explained or full of itself, it was just the setting for the tale.
The fourth novella was the only one where I’ll say anything at all negative, it went on past the ending. The extra parts were fine and well written and interesting, but the story ends in Chapter 8 when Kevin is forced to leave town to go live with his dad and Carole curls back up into her shell of silence and shyness. You hate to end it there, but sometimes life is like that, it doesn’t have the satisfying (or unsatisfying) wrap up we get in chapters 8 through 10.
There is one excerpt I did want to share with you though, because to me it’s what sets apart Levi Montgomery’s writing. It’s an almost stream of consciousness gush of ideas and thoughts and words that comes rushing out and you really do need to read them all. Here are Kevin and Carole sitting on the porch, being young people:
“They sat in her living room and watched TV for two hours… two hours and he never even touched her hand, but now on the moonlit glassed-in back porch, gripped again by that courageous terrified desperate need, he takes her hands and pulls her to him. Leaning back against the dryer, he pulls her to him, and puts his arms around her… puts his arms around her and leans down to her face… down to her face as she looks up at him… she looks up at him and he doesn’t know how to do this… he leans down to her upturned face… and he doesn’t know how to truly kiss a girl… and he leans down… and her eyes are closed… and then for a very long moment, it doesn’t matter that they don’t know what to do. They do all right.”
Yep, they do all right, at least until chapter 8. I encourage you to get the book to see if you disagree with me. Maybe the last three chapters really are important. Maybe I’m just a reviewer and maybe you should go buy this book so you’ll know for sure. When you do buy it and find out you really enjoy it, drop by and tell me thanks. I’m that confident that you’ll end up being a Levi Montgomery fan too.