4 out of 4 stars
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And Throw Away the Skins by Scott Archer Jones is the story of Rebecca, known as Bec, whom we meet on the tail end of her fight with breast cancer. The book is set in 2008 and 2009, and her husband is sent off to the middle east as an Army chaplain. Even prior to his departure, their marriage is strained, Bec noticing a palpable relief on both of their ends once the physical separation occurs. Due to finances, and with a desire to spend time alone to recuperate after her disease, Bec moves up to a remote mountain cabin on her family’s land in New Mexico.
Life at the cabin immediately sets off differently than Bec had expected. Rather than solitude, Bec finds a small but vibrant community of locals ready to welcome her and involve her in the local affairs. In addition, a small group of war veterans referred to Bec by her husband become fixtures in the town. As she grows closer to some of these new friends, Bec realizes that her own marriage is growing increasingly distant. Her husband struggles with the after-effects of her disease, and the strain drives him deeper into his work. Bec must decide whether to fight through the tension that plagues them, or to surrender fully into her new life, accepting whatever consequences come along.
This is a pensive and psychological novel, and at times the struggle and the subject matter hang heavy in each word. It is a story about illness, war, trauma, grief, and a struggling marriage, and in the midst of these challenges is Bec – a true emblem of a strong and independent woman. Through brief glimpses of her past, the author provides a vivid sketch of her essence, as well as the source of her inner resolve. My only slight complaint about the book was that we were not given more than just a few short scenes of her childhood; I had wanted a chance to get to know Bec a little better, in the past as well as the present.
The writing style is poignant but succinct, and at times the short paragraphs read almost like a poem. Much of the story was almost hinted-at by brief flashbacks into Bec’s past, or by the things that were left unsaid in conversations, which took some getting used-to but also contributed to the overall minimalistic tone. I was particularly moved by the author’s descriptions of the fictional town and surrounding landscape, which set a very specific mood that hung through the entirety of the book. It was almost as if the town into which Bec had moved had a spirit of its own, one that permeated the actions and choices of all the residents that settled there.
Because the subject matter does not make for light reading, this may not be a book for everyone, but I would recommend it highly to those who appreciate raw and emotional stories with complex and nuanced characters. I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars.
And Throw Away The Skins
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