Book Review :: The Rest of Her Life

Laura Moriarty’s novel The Rest of Her Life is the story of a strained relationship between a mother and daughter when tragedy hits.

Kara – the daughter – is just days away from high school graduation and weeks away from embarking on college and the rest of her life, when she kills a pedestrian (and fellow student) because of careless driving. It is told from the mother’s point of view – Leigh – and so then the story is less tragedy and more relationship, and even then is less about the relationship than it is about Leigh’s introspection. The accident is simply the catalyst.

I have a friend who loved this book. When she recommended it and I looked it up, I was pleasantly surprised to find I already owned it. I think I picked it up on sale when browsing a bookstore; it looked intriguing. Most girls I know – no matter how close they are currently to their moms – went though a period of a strained relationship, and so I assumed I would empathize with the story line.

However, pretty quickly Leigh struck me as immature and self-serving. Quite frankly, I felt Kara demonstrated more adult behavior than her mom. After the accident, Leigh recalls a similar tragedy 15 years earlier and how much she had sympathized with (in this case) the teenage boy who had killed a young mom and was sentenced to prison. She wrote to the boy explaining how sorry she was for him, empathizing that even she on occasion had not completely stopped at every stop sign. (By the way, he passed on double lines, late for work, and hit an oncoming car head on.) Leigh laments, “The (widowed father) had lost his wife, but he had his child, the sympathy of his community, and his own righteous indignation. Kevin Wornall had only guilt.” Eh?

This irrational, illogical thought pattern permeates the novel. Toward the end of the summer, Leigh takes to following the dead girl’s mother. She mostly goes during the day but also finds excuses to leave the house in the evening. This tailing culminates in a confrontation with the mother where she actually asks, “Is this what (your daughter) would have wanted for you? For you to hate Kara so much?…I want you to stop hurting Kara…This is our home.”
Seriously? She seriously thinks she has the right to ask anything of this woman?
The unintended irony of the story is that it ends with Leigh’s husband forging a solid relationship with their awkward and artsy son, offering little resolution to Leigh and Kara’s own shortcomings.
I think the idea of the book was a good one – tragedy can often expose weaknesses in relationships and hopefully bring restoration and healing. However, this requires respectable characters and in this case, I feel, Moriarty has fallen short.


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5 Replies to “Book Review :: The Rest of Her Life

  1. I was VERY disappointed in this book, esp. after reading, and LOVING, her first book, The Center of Everything. Give it a try–it's much better than this one!

  2. Welcome back, Bunny! Hope ya'll had a fabulous trip!

    Since someone else had really liked this one, I'm willing to give her other book a try. Bunny, is the copy I have any chance yours? Quite frankly I couldn't remember where I got it… just know I'm a sucker for a cheap book…

  3. I am sorry you didn't like this book. I know I raved about it, and I appreciate your reading it. I hope it wasn't a complete waste of time. I do know how valuable reading time is.

    I won't deny it: This book definitely had some problems, and you did a nice job discussing them. I'd add to the cons of the book the character of Leigh's mother & the confrontation between Leigh & the dead girl's mother. Just strange & not all that well down.

    For whatever reason though, a couple of themes really resonated with me. Just one I'll mention is the divide between Leigh & Kara. Mothers & daughters – and the divide that happens to so many of them – have always been an interesting theme to me, and even more so now that I have a daughter. This book's exploration of that theme spoke to me on some personal level, which I guess is why I liken this book so much.

    I just read her third book While I'm Falling, and I did not like it nearly as much. There is a scene in that book that is perhaps one of the most out-of-place scenes, I've ever read in a book. I just cannot see why this part was left in the book.

    I have a copy of The Center of Everything, and I'm eager to read it. Maybe it will be up next after I finish Shreve's Testimony.

  4. Not a waste of time…just not my favorite read. I agree about Leigh's mom… I felt that going to so much into her history was a bit of a waste of the reader's time. I get that she was trying to explain Leigh, but I'm not one that completely buys into how you were raised being an excuse for current behavior. But, like with you, mother /daughter stories intrigue me.

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