By: Karen White
Publisher: New American Library
Publication Date: June 2013
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: June 2013
In her latest novel, The Time Between, Karen White takes the reader on a bittersweet journey of two generations of sisters and the complexities of the secrets they kept.
In her opening scene, Ms. White introduces her first character, Eleanor Murray. She is lying motionless on her back contemplating her fight for life or perhaps her acquiescence to death. Eleanor intently watches the paramedics work to revive her sister Eve and is pained by her mother’s expression. Eleanor cannot comprehend the position of Eve’s legs—bent in a way that legs should not bend. Eleanor struggles to concentrate and wonders why she is drawn to a large woman with dark skin. Why is she sitting on the steps of the whitewashed building; quietly weaving her basket? She was certain she heard the woman call her name right before she disappeared. It was her message that would haunt Eleanor in the years to come: “All shut-eye ain’t sleep; all good-bye ain’t gone.” In the next moment, Eleanor takes a deep breath and is consumed by the incredible pain. Her dreams of auditioning at Juilliard and playing music were gone… perhaps forever.
After the accident, Eleanor’s only purpose in life was to atone for her sister’s permanent disability. Second chances in life go unrecognized at first. When “Finn” Beaufain, Eleanor’s boss, presents her with a job prospect of caring for his aging aunt, Helena Szarka, the notion that the cantankerous old lady would be the key to her playing piano again was ridiculous. What Eleanor doesn’t realize is Ms. Szarka has her own demons to face because of the recent passing of her sister Bernadette. Somehow Ms. Szarka’s atonement is tied to the Nazi invasion of Hungary and valuable paintings. Before the healing begins, however, Eleanor must return to Edisto Island; a place in time filled with memories and opportunities of what could have been.
Ms. White complements her captivating story with beautifully written passages that pay heart-felt homage to the charming low country of South Carolina. I am constantly in awe of writers who are able to capture the essence of a place from their past and share the feelings with such depth and breadth it beckons the reader to walk alongside the writer to listen to the story. Ms. White is a master of the art of doing so. This is the very essence of storytelling. In The Time Between, Ms. White accomplishes a symphonic tale that hooked this reader from inception to the very end. I applaud her consistent refusal to use a basic analogy when describing certain scenes. One passage, in particular, describes the relationship between sisters. Without mottling up the moment with endless sentences and structure toward ‘perfection’ she sums up the true dynamics in two sentences: “The relationship between sisters is a little piece of heaven and hell. But we share the same soul.” I have two sisters and this particular sentiment was a home run for me. Perhaps this is a work of fiction, but there is no ‘fiction’ assigned to this powerful analogy.
Quill says: The Time Between is a beautifully written story of second chances and the important role forgiveness plays in those second chances.