Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Ex-Cottagers in Love by J. M. Kearns - Review


Ex-Cottagers in Love by J. M. Kearns (2008)

Fiction, 380 pgs. Paperback, Key Porter Press

This is a guest review written by Claire of kiss a cloud.

Ex-Cottagers in Love is a touching story about emotional attachments--to family, the past, childhood places, newfound loves.

Dave, in mid-life, is working as a paralegal in L.A., but his dream career, really, is to be a musician/songwriter. He works the music on the side, waiting for his "big break." He is dating his dream girl, and everything in his life is just as it should be.

Until he gets an invitation from his sister in Canada to spend a week's vacation in Muskoka to relive old times. Their family used to own a cottage by the lake where they spent their summers in. That cottage was recently sold, and Dave's sister is trying to gain back the sense of place they used to have when they were younger by renting a place right across their old cottage. Excited at the chance, Dave brings his girlfriend Maggie along.

While there, however, Dave's idea of a relaxing vacation turns into a painful and desperate trip into nostalgia. Suddenly, he expects Maggie to completely understand his feelings about summer vacations in cottage country, and despises her when she deviates from what he expects. He begins to yearn for the old days, and ponders on what it all means: his current life, his job, his relationships. He plunges into full-blown soul-searching.

When I began this book, I didn't expect to see much depth, but I was pleasantly surprised that, not only was the protagonist not shallow, the writing was actually very good.
What I loved from the start was the feeling of summer that I got. How could one not love reading about summers by the lake?

But it wasn't all about summer and cottage country. Dave had to go back to his reality in L.A. His family moved on. Along the way, we are given glimpses into the lives of members of two other generations: Dave's aging father, and his teenage nephew. The struggles each of the three characters faces intersect with one another and we are pulled into their affairs as a family, and as individuals finding their own place in this world.

The themes are familiar. The fragility of life. The inability to articulate our feelings. Self-absorption into our own dramas that we forget to pay attention to others who matter. And that, sometimes, things are a little too late.

The book also made me thoughtful: How important are memories in our lives, and are they worth that importance we give them over loved ones that are living, breathing beings, hovering in the midst of the present, the now?

There were many things in the book that moved me. And I was so glad that this turned out to be something with more substance than I initially expected. It was a delight to read, bittersweet and hopeful, like how life is. Thank you, Mr. Kearns, for this endearing book.

Two of my favourite passages:

One of the most fun things you can do is to lie on the bottom of a canoe. I did it once in the daytime. I had my life preserver on, and my mom was in the canoe. It's way more dangerous at night, like this. It's like having no sense of balance. The stars don't tell you when you're tipping and when you're not, so you feel like you're tipping all the time.

The conversation continued. My diaphragm humming with pleasure, I watched as he just kept getting things right. We had never had a chat so leisurely, so steady, so intimate. It was as if we had climbed a mountain in a freezing rain, to find at the top a sunny meadow.


J. M. Kearns has also written these non-fiction books:

Why Mr. Right Can't Find You: The Surprising Answers that Will Change Your Life (January 2008)

Better Love Next Time: How the Relationship that Didn't Last Can Guide You to the One that Will (January 2009)

Key Porter Presshttp://www.keyporter.com/BookDetail.aspx?ISBN=1554700000

J.M Kearns Home Page:http://www.jmkearns.com/

Thank you Claire. Please visit Claire at kiss a cloud, it's a lovely book blog with insightful reviews of literary fiction.


  1. This sounds like a wonderful book. Thanks for the review.

  2. What a fabulous review and the book sounds so wonderful. It's going on "the list"

  3. Great review, it sounds like a great read. Thanks!

  4. Great review! Very thoughtful and insightful so I'm sure that the book that inspired such a review must be a great read as well.

  5. I love the paragraphs that you have mentioned too :) :)
    Really nice review! Hope to get this book, whenever it becomes available :)

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