Title: The Art of Devotion
Author: Samantha Bruce-Benjamin
Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge
First Sentence: "For each of us, there is a moment: what we see at the last, before God closes our eyes forever; an entire existence distilled to one perfect memory."
Summary (From back of book):
The secluded beaches of a sun-drenched Mediterranean island are the perfect playground for young Sebastian and Adora. Emotionally adrift from their mother, Adora shelters her sensitive older brother from the cruelties of the world. Sophie does not question her children's intense need for one another until it's too late. Her beloved son's affections belong to Adora, and when he drowns in the sea, she has no one else to blame.
Still heartbroken years later, Adora fills her emptiness with Genevieve, the precocious young daughter of her husband's business associate and his jealous wife, Miranda. Thrilled to be invited into the beautiful and enigmatic Adora's world, the child idolizes her during their summers together. Yet, as the years progress, Genevieve begins to suspect their charmed existence is nothing more than a carefully crafted illusion. Soon, she too is ensnared in a web of lies.
My Two Cents:
Any book that begins with the final sentence from my all-time favorite novel, The Great Gatsby, gets an extra point in my book. And when that novel can take some of the same themes found in Gatsby and use them properly, it gets more points.
This book, Bruce-Benjamin's first novel, is told entirely from the memories of its characters. There is no present tense in the verbs, and some other reviewers have had problems with that fact. I think it works for this book, especially since so many of its characters are stuck in the past and can't see forward into the future. The "telling" from memory also works well for Bruce-Benjamin's writing style, which is easily readable and fluid.
I had a hard time determining which characters to like and dislike, which is definitely the author's intention. She only shows you what you need to see at any given moment, and your opinion of many of the characters changes pretty drastically throughout the course of the book. Sometimes, I like when authors do that, but other times I'm not so fond of it. The constant change in appearance and opinion of the characters works for this novel, though, as a lot of the focus is on artifice and perception.
I do have to say that Sebastian and Adora's relationship often creeped me out a little bit. They were far too close and dependent for brother and sister, especially as they got older. Maybe it's just because I've never had a sibling relationship that was that insanely close, but I just didn't understand it and I didn't understand why Sophie, their mother, didn't dissuade them from spending so much time together.
If you like books about family relationships, secrets and lies, this is the book for you.