Echos at Dawn by Kathleen Ann Gallagher: review

Echoes at DawnEchoes at Dawn by Kathleen Ann Gallagher

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The strangely intertwined lives of a widowed woman, and a charismatic bachelor come together in order to show that in life, there are no coincidences… only destiny.

Waterfront restaurant chef Madeline Young adores her job. If only her love and family’s lives were as successful as her career. With a teenage son, who spends time in the emergency room for alcohol poisoning and a dementia-plagued mother, Madeline doesn’t know how much more she could handle. Then her mother enlists the help of her deceased twin sister, Mary, to guide Madeline to find true happiness. An early dawn visit from the spirit directs Madeline to volunteer at the local hospitals center for addiction recovery, where she comes alive for the first time in many years under the attention of Nat Griffin.

Nathaniel Griffin, a part-time counselor and contractor, fascinates his clients with his lectures. In keeping with his philosophy of professionalism, Nat prefers to keep his personal life private. When attraction tests his beliefs, Nat must confront his marred past. Is he willing to face his demons or take the easier path and remain isolated?

Can unworldly ghosts save this couple from their own self-destructive behavior?

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For those of a delicate disposition, I’ll warn you now that this is not a positive review. It’s a while since I read this book, and my original review appears under my Goodreads account. I’m doing some catching up on reviews on my blog and this book has come to the top of the pile.

I downloaded the ebook from Amazon when rummaging through the free ebooks there; the blurb intrigued me – the set up isn’t a standard love story (although I suspected that there would be a love story in there). I wasn’t expecting high literature; but I was expecting an interesting, thoughtful, and entertaining read. Boy, was I disappointed.

When I got to 7% in I was seriously wondering if I could bear to read the rest. I was not impressed with the writing, feeling that there was no flow whatsoever and no character interest. Quite frankly, I didn’t like the main characters. Why is a 40+ widowed mother of three obsessed with dating? [Ed’s Note: before all the middle aged ladies get up in arms, I should point out I’m close to that age myself and not a twenty-something who thinks things like that stop when one turns 30!]. She wants to start a restaurant, but doesn’t have time…because of her dating, it seems, which only makes her miserable. I decided to persevere and see if it improved.

The next day, I’d made it as far as 12% and decided that life is way too short to spend time reading such badly written drivel. Most of the time, the author failed to make her point since she seems unable to paint pictures, even simple ones, with words. She clearly does not understand the rich layering of stories made possible by using tenses to convey things happening in the story, instead she uses a mixed of the perfect and present throughout, whatever the relative temporal location of the events. In this case, the story would be better told in the perfect and pluperfect, since the events take place in the immediate past and more distant past. Since the story has a bunch of character-told flashbacks, there really ought to be a far bit of pluperfect about…but there wasn’t (“It was time for me to leave; I saw enough for one day”), just lots of present tense. This makes things both confusing and gives a child-like quality to the prose.

The author seems unable to tell a flowing story. Sentences are rarely more than 10 words long. They jump from one subject to another in a single paragraph. This make the story very jerky. This paragraph is intentionally very jerky! Her biography at the end is similarly disjointed. It becomes impossible to follow the events of any one scene, let alone follow a plot.

When Ms Gallagher does try to write longer paragraphs using commas – I skipped to the last page to find some- they are incorrectly used and lead to a muddled sentence.

At around 10-12% in, the main character Madeline, goes to the hospital for her volunteer training. At least I think that’s what is going on; it was unclear whether Nat’s talk was a orientation session for volunteers or patients. On a ward with locked doors and buzzer entry, Madeline is not asked to sign in and allowed to wander around the ward unsupervised, yet meets no patients. I couldn’t work out why the staff ignored her or why she didn’t speak to the staff. It seemed odd that the counsellor in a rehab centre would carry and smoke cigars on ward. Whilst in the ward we are told by Madeline, “I counted the moments until my orientation at the medical center. I could not wait to learn what secret (sic) would unfold, or life changing experience waited for me inside the mysterious ward.” This after she sees a patient subdued by nursing staff; I thought this a strange and inappropriate reaction. I could not find any point of commonality with Madeline, and hence had no empathy with or sympathy for her.

I know that alcoholism is a serious disease and I do not wish to belittle the subject; this book, however, does do that in my opinion. It is sanctimonious in its tone and unrealistic in its portrayal, in my opinion. Nat, the counsellor, is “scarred for life” because his oft drunk (from the descriptions provided, I’m not convinced alcoholic is the correct description) hit him once. Many people suffer much more serious abuse from alcoholic parents, so I didn’t find this back story convincing. Prior to the start of the book, Madeline’s 16 year old son comes home from a party “with drink on his breath” so she packs him off for a six week course with a counsellor. No wonder in Chapter 1 he’s drunk himself to a vomiting stupor – typical teenager rebellion. Whilst I don’t condone under-age drinking (not unsupervised anyway), isolated incidents shouldn’t lead Madeline to assume her son is an alcoholic. Encouraging him to moderate his drinking would be sensible, but she goes off and becomes a volunteer at the local rehab centre – using up what little free time she has from her “executive chef” job and thus spending even less time with her son. Perhaps if she put the time and energy she’s prepared to spend at the rehab centre into building a proper relationship with her son, he would act more sensibly.

Oh heck! I sound as if I’m preaching! It’s just that the whole story line is so unreal, that it’s made me really angry at how out of touch the author is, and that while she (presumably) thinks she’s furthering the discussion of an important topic, instead she is trivialising it.

The reason Madeline starts to volunteer at the rehab centre is that her Aunt Mary’s ghost writes the name of the hospital on the ceiling…that was a particularly badly written and unrealistic scene…yet when Madelaine gets to the hospital, Aunt Mary appears and glares at her, then disappears,  and Madeline carries on blithely wandering around. The “visions” seem to have no connection with anything else, including the plot.

From reading the last page, it seems the point was to get Madeline and Nat together. I don’t know (or care) what happened to Jeremy, the 16 year old son. I don’t care because the author didn’t write him or any of the other characters in a way that caused me to care.

I got this book as a free kindle download from Amazon. Quite frankly, it was over-priced. The writing is of high school standard, not published book standard. For example take four sentences from 12% in:

“It was such a beautiful day. I decided to stop at the waterfront. Since it was still early, I took the scenic route. I needed time to unwind, before I went home”

Why not write this as:

“I needed time to unwind before I went home. Since it was still early, I decided to take advantage of the beautiful day and drive the scenic route to the waterfront.” ?

OK, that could still do with some work, but at 0115 hours and very little effort, it’s still better than the original.

This is the point at which I stopped reading; I really couldn’t stand any more of the drivel.

In my opinion, the whole book needs the aid of a really good, fearless editor. The author probably has, from her nursing career, a good knowledge of the problems associated with and the treatment of alcoholism. She could make a difference, but not with this book as it currently stands. It fails to address the subject in a realistic and sensible manner.

I Did Not Finish this book. That’s a rarity for me – I estimate there are fewer than 24 books in my life that have this “honour”.

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View all my Goodreads reviews

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