Regal Crest Enterprises, LLC, 2008. ISBN 978-1-932300-94-9.
Reviewed by Cheri Rosenberg
Posted on 01/07/2009
Does life gives us more pain, suffering, and hard choices than we can handle? Jane Vollbrecht explores this question and more in Second Verse. A freak boating accident leaves Gail Larsen's beloved partner Marissa in a coma and on life support. Because they never put their critical care instructions in writing, Gail is powerless to fulfill Marissa's last wishes. Marissa's parents refuse to acknowledge the nature of the relationship between their daughter and Gail and deny Gail visitation rights. After two years, Gail remains heartbroken, guilt-ridden, angry and lonely, on anti-depressants and in therapy. Marissa, although handicapped from a bout of childhood polio, promised Gail, "Some day, when my legs get better, we're going dancing" (p. 33); that day never came. Gail doubts she will ever stop missing Marissa, but can she ever love again? Will she get to dance through the second verse?
Gail has little faith in her therapist. Every time Dr. Wilburn reminds her that "anger is often fear wearing a mask" and "anger turned inward on your self is usually the cause of depression," Gail cringes. Although cynical, Gail keeps her appointments so she can get refills on her prescriptions. Dr. Wilburn advises her to get back into the world and reconnect with people.
Gail's boss, the managing editor of Outrageous Press, offers her an opportunity to edit an upcoming release for Connie Martin, "the reigning royalty of alternative feminist literature." Gail accepts the assignment as a token gesture toward taking her therapist's advice. She drives to Atlanta to spend time with Connie so they can do a rush job on the editing and get the book into print to coincide with Connie's award from a mainstream literary group.
Gail's first impression of Connie Martin is that she's quirky, conceited, bossy, and annoying. Gail refers to her as a "pit bull personality housed in a Pekingese body," and is convinced Connie "mainlines caffeine." She suspects Connie doesn't allow her picture on the back cover of her books to avoid destroying any illusions her readers might harbor. "Sales would drop by half if her readers knew she's a Betty Crocker look-alike in need of a makeover" rather than the hot sexy characters she writes about. At the end of the project, Gail is ready to be done with Connie in every possible way.
Meanwhile, Gail's childhood friend Penny asks for her help in cleaning out her parents' house in their old hometown of Plainfield, Minnesota. While assisting Penny, Gail confronts her lifelong crush on her "straight" friend and comes to terms with the past. The trip to her hometown puts many issues to rest, but it conjures up new feelings as well.
Just when Gail thinks she's got her dancing feet back under her, Fate blindsides her yet again. Can she accept the challenges that falling in love would require of her? Can she forgive her own previous mistakes and find true happiness a second time around?
Jane Vollbrecht creates genuine characters with inner strength of ordinary people coping with real life issues. Like Gail, each of us is tested when faced with difficult choices. Readers will empathize with Gail's dilemma. Are we wise to trust our first impressions of people?
Marissa's last wish was for Gail to keep dancing. "...there are lots of ways to dance. Come to think of it, she and Marissa had danced in all the ways that really mattered." We all might be well advised to hear the music of life and dance.
Second Verse is Jane Vollbrecht's fifth novel. She was a finalist for Golden Crown Literary Society awards and won a Goldie in the Dramatic Fiction category. She has short stories included in anthologies and works as an editor. She is now part of the management team at Blue Feather Books, Ltd. Visit her website.
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