A Rose by the Door by Deborah Bedford is the first book I’ve read by this author. I really enjoyed this novel and would definitely pick up another book by this author!
A Rose by the Door tells the story of a mother who has lost her son 5 years earlier when he walked out of her life and hasn’t returned since. His body is returned after his car accident, but his mother isn’t given a chance to explain her love or her motivations for acting the way she did years ago. Pent up anger and longing for her son encasing her heart, she must face the predicament of the young woman and little girl who show up on her doorstep, bedraggled and without a home. Can Bea find a corner of her heart to open up to this young girl and her mother, or is her heart frozen shut with the loss of her son. What is the secret that she is hiding? Will the telling of it free her from her self-imprisonment?
One of the delights of reading is experiencing the artistry of the words the author has carefully selected, measured out, and left flowing over the pages of the novel. Deborah Bedford delighted my senses and artfully placed words together to form exquisite sentences; each word carefully written in complete artistic abandon. I’m certain this isn’t the autho’rs experience but the fact that it appears this way testifies to the author’s skill. Most authors would probably admit to hours of reworking a paragraph or even a sentence until it expresses what they want (or what the editor wants:) ) Deborah Bedford strokes the imagination with her words; makes you want to linger over a phrase; forming the words on your own lips; rolling them over your tongue to taste the complexity; the suble weight and beauty of the sentence. For example, the author’s description on the first page of the middle-of-the-night light as “rainbow shades of gray” (pg.1, A Rose by the Door) arrests the reader immediately with a sense of appreciation for a description of night as we’ve never heard it described before. There are several other descriptions that are worth pausing over as well. Read these words and linger over them; try them out on your own tongue and taste to see the originality of them:
“The dry, dusty distance had claimed her, had whispered its awful lie to her and made her believe it – a song sung, a story ended, a dark dirge of separation that repeated itself in broken litany over and over again.” (pg. 128-129, A Rose by the Door) Without knowing who or what the “dry, dusty distance” is, you wonder, don’t you? Even while reading the book you wonder at the personification and the beauty of the words placed together in so memorable a manner.
Picture this image:
“…Bea placed Nathan’s baseball inside the chalice of the little girl’s hands.” (pg. 183, A Rose by the Door)Can’t you just picture how this must look, but even beyond that, the importance the little girl placed on baseball for her hands to have formed a holy sepulchre?
The author’s mastery of words is evident in the description of the setting as well as in this example when the setting itself becomes a temporary character in the story:
“As Gemma walked home from work late that afternoon, everything around her seemed to whisper “Three weeks…Three weeks…Three weeks.” The words rustled from the lawn grass beneath her feet and the leaves in the trees overhead and the green acorns that skittered along the walk when she kicked them. “Three weeks…Three weeks.”” (pg. 187, A Rose by the Door) Obviously the author wanted to emphasize the time span and the effect on this character’s life, but she does so in a way that seems so natural yet is so effective. The time limit she has placed on Gemma almost becomes another character that she must battle against. Another foe in the story.
While I was fascinated by the many different turns of phrases in this novel, I believe what made them so fascinating was the originality of the descriptions and phrases. I believe the author was less effective when she used repetition of a particular phrase a couple of times in the story: eg.”He said there was nothing better than waking up in a place to make you feel like you owned it. Morning is fragile, he said. Makes you belong to something in a way that someone who hasn’t slept over never would.” (pg. 327 et al A Rose by the Door) I thought this was brilliant the first time, but by the second time it was already used up. I imagine the author used it to emphasize these words by the deceased character as how else does a deceased character speak than through the remembrances of others? Repitition would serve as an emphasizing tool, but I don’t like it in this book. No other reason than I like the orginality of the phrase and want to see it only once.
I felt this author had developed strong characters and I was particularly fascinated by Care Goodsell, the cemetary gardner. At the end of the story I wanted to go back and reread all the passages including this character as he becomes an unexpected piece of the mystery puzzle. I was caught completely by surprise by this character and was delighted that the author had “pulled one over on me.”
My only question at the end of the story in relation to plot was: Whatever happened to Bea’s husband, Ray? Why was he discontent and what impact did this have on the other characters besides the obvious implication of the plot? We know it affected Bea, but what of the boys, other than the obvious effect Bea’s response had on their lives?
Overall, this is a wonderful twist on the prodigal son story. It is an original concept which is refreshing in the world of literature and is well-written and definitely keeps the readers interest throughout the novel. Well done, Deborah Bedford! If you haven’t read this book yet, make it a priority to find it in your bookstore soon!