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Friday, August 4, 2006

Table For Five by Susan Wiggs

Lily Robinson is not only the godmother of the Hollway children; she's also their teacher. So when Lily calls in the divorced parents, Crystal (her best friend) and Derek, for a conference, and the two of them are killed on the way home, Lily's grief is exponentially worse because of her guilt. Sean Maguire, Derek's half-brother, is an ex-pro golfer ready for a comeback. Crystal never got around to formalizing her request that Lily take the children in case anything happened to her, and Sean is named as their guardian in the will. But Lily refuses to walk away from her godchildren, so Lily and Sean force themselves to cooperate with each other, an exercise that begins to lead to a grudging respect.

Wiggs explores many aspects of grief, from guilt to anger to regret, imbuing her book with the classic would've/could've/should've emotions, and presenting realistic and sympathetic characters. Never maudlin, Wiggs writes with an even hand, thus adding another excellent title to her already-outstanding body of work. Shelley MosleyCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

This wasn't a typical fairy tale like romance novel. The hero and heroine didn't meet, instantly fall in love, get married and have half a dozen babies. No. A horrific tragedy occurred in the form of a car accident, leaving 3 children alone and orphaned, resulting in two people altering their lives to help the children survive their loss.

When Lily Robinson finds out her best friend Crystal Hollway had died in a car accident with her ex-husband, she's torn apart. They had been best friends for the longest time and she couldn't even begin to imagine life without her. But after her initial shock, she pushes her grieving aside to care for Crystal's children, just as she had promised. Lily turns her life upside down in order to make room for the children and vows to make sure they all get through their loss, together. The only problem is, Crystal hadn't had the opportunity to officially make Lily the children's legal guardian, should they pass away...leaving the court to rule in favour of Sean Maguire.

Lily knows she can't contest the will and especially not without causing further havoc in the children's life. So reluctantly, she hands the reigns over to Sean - who is in no shape to raise 3 children on his own and they both know it. But Sean is determined as hell to make it work, somehow - even if he knew next to absolutely nothing about caring for kids.

With Cameron, Charlie and Ashley in Sean's care, Lily is off the parenting hook, but she has trouble letting go. And so she finds herself frequently dropping in at the Hollway residence, to check up on both the kids and Sean's parenting. But we all know, those regular visits were more than that. Lily had always loved her godchildren, but somewhere along the line, Lily fell in love with Sean too.

I really enjoyed reading this one. It was great to see the tough yet rewarding journey these five people took in order to deal with their loss. They made sacrifices to make it work, they made mistakes, they took chances and somehow they made it work. Together, Lily and Sean picked up the pieces in all their lives and rebuilt a family.

As for the children, the one that got to me most was Cameron. He was a young kid with the weight of the world on his shoulders, a lot of resentment built up, fear and insecurity, and uncertainty of the future. I loved how Susan Wiggs portrayed his troubled character in addition to giving us a glimpse into his unconditional love for his sisters. By the end of the book, there was no doubt of the self journey Cameron had gone through, with the help of Sean and Lily, and his new friend Becky.

Other cute things that warmed my heart was the shared devotion both Sean and Lily had towards the children. I loved the way they discussed the kids and their well being, as though they were in fact their very own. It was even cuter to see a man's man like Sean, attempting to fix Ashley's hair, just like Crystal.

The only thing that would have made this an even better read, would be a greater exploration of Sean and Lily's feelings. I understand that a big focus was on making it work for the kids etc, but it would have been nice to see more of the chemistry between Sean and Lily.

Bottom line: A great read, with a touch of realism that brings a tightness to the throat as the characters try to pick up the pieces and find their bit of happiness.

4 / 5

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