Friday, December 19, 2014

Cold Springs

After having thoroughly enjoyed reading the seven books in Rick Riordan's Tres Navarre series, I decided to dive into something else that he had penned. A quick scan of the limited available catalog at my local library, made my choice easy. Cold Springs is a sobering story whose strength is in its emotional pull and its tale of hurt people hurting people. The story's narrative begins with two couples, Norma and Chadwick, and Ann and John. Ann is the headmistress at a local private school and her husband John is an up-and-coming real estate developer. Chadwick is a teacher of history at Ann's school where Norma serves as a fundraiser and planner. These four folks have a very long history together and the fire in both marriages has long since died out. Katherine is the child of Norma and Chadwick, 16 years old and a student at her father's school. A child who was once the apple of her parent's eyes, but who slowly let rebellion steal her soul. Mallory is the 6 year old daughter of Ann and John whose greatest joy in the world is getting to spend time with her "big sister" Katherine. The comfortable foundations of everyone's life finally crumble away when Katherine dies of a heroine overdose while babysitting young Mallory.

The unmerciful sword of reality that ravaged these families ended both marriages. Some few years later we find that Mallory, in her desperation to quell the pain and betrayal that she felt, had followed a path eerily similar to that of Katherine. In the following years, Chadwick had lived a joyless life, blaming himself for his daughter's death. He tried to make some kind of amends by working at a boot camp for troubled teens. Finally, when Ann could no longer stand to see Mallory destroy herself, she called Chadwick to enroll her daughter in his camp. Slowly, with tentative and painful steps, we see Mallory slowly edge back from the cliff's edge on which she had been living. Beneath all of this we learn more about what fueled Chadwick, why he felt such deep responsibility for Mallory, and how Mallory's life held such important elements to get him past his own Katherine's death.

After getting to appreciate Riordan's style in his Tres Navarre series, this outing went in a very different direction and had a very different style. In fact, if I had not known who the author was, I would not have been able to make a guess. This was not what I would term a light-hearted story. It's dark elements weighed on me because my own daughter is the same age as Katherine. As with most children, they have two aspects to their lives. One is the face that they show to you, and the other is how they are when they are on their own. Often those are quite different and we must find a way to teach and guide without a heavy hand, but in a manner such that we are heard. It also made me consider the lengths that I would go to toward protecting my own daughter.