Linda K. Sienkiewicz's debut novel, In the Context of Love, is a spell-bounding, layered story of a family's secrets from and assumptions about each other. Chapter One starts with the protagonist, Angelica, driving her two children, ten-year-old Michelle, and eight-year-old Jude, to the state penitentiary to visit their father. Social Services advised her it was important for them to see their dad. Angelica wants their children to be aware of the consequences one has to pay for breaking the law. Inside she is fuming at herself for her life being what it is while at the same time blaming him for his reckless regard for law and order. Watching him turn on his mighty charm for their children reminds her exactly how she ended up in this mess. They were falling under his spell just as she had eleven years earlier.
Chapter Two takes us back to Angelica's senior year in high school, when the sky was the limit and she knew her future would be grand as an educated professional. The details of those highly charged emotional days of first love come to life as we watch this honor student throw her future to the winds in the throes of passion. Angelica is an only child with adoring parents. Her mother changes from nurturer to a suspicious neurotic when she dates Joe Vadis, the love her life. Her father becomes mysteriously watchful and silent. Angelica's maternal grandmother lives with them and adds unsolicited, often comical, grandmotherly advice.
With America's high rate of incarceration, we seldom read stories about what happens to the families left behind by felons or what it was like as they lived in the shadows of their crimes before they were arrested and convicted. This novel takes us into the heart of one desperate family's struggle to survive against great odds.
The author's strength is in her character development and unexpected plot twists. She is obviously a close observer of people, and the way they interact with each other in friendship, courtships, marriage and family. She brings to life intergenerational differences in perceptions of the same events.
In the Context of Love is a powerful story that stays with the reader long after reading. It could easily become a series since the ending, though satisfying, certainly leaves the reader wanting to know what will happen to these unforgettable characters next.
Read an excerpt from this book.
Linda K. Sienkiewicz lives with her husband in southeast Michigan, where they spoil their grandchildren and then send them home. She is a published poet and fiction writer. Her work has appeared in more than fifty literary journals, including Prairie Schooner, Clackamas Literary Review, Spoon River, and Permafrost. She has an MFA from the University of Southern Maine. Visit her website.
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