Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve

Flap copy from ARC:
Twenty-eight year old Margaret travels to Kenya with her new husband, Patrick, with the intent of staying a year. In a dizzying multi-cultural city, she struggles to maintain her balance as her sense of self, her marriage, and her understanding of the world are shaken to the core.

Invited on a climbing expedition to Mt. Kenya, the newlyweds are caught up in a horrific accident. In its aftermath, Margaret must try to understand exactly what happened on that mountain and what it has done to her and to her marriage.

In this latest effort, Shreve sticks to her general formula- how one moment, one decision can forever change a life. Margaret and Patrick are a young newlyweds living in Africa when a tragic moment on a mountain climb with their landlords causes a rift from which their marriage may never recover. The book covers the year following the actions on the mountain, and traces the efforts Margaret makes to rediscover her life and her love.

The book was well-written, and the flavor of expat life in Africa came through beautifully, but I just found it impossible to connect to the characters. Margaret seemed to be drifting through life, never really making choices about the things that most impact her. Patrick was not sympathetically drawn- I for one could not figure out why Margaret married him and followed him to Kenya, let alone why she was interested in saving her marriage to him. Even at the end, I just didn't care one way or the other about how the story turned out which is never a good sign.

Perhaps this book wouldn't have been so disappointing if I hadn't recently finished the absolutely incredible Testimony where the characters so truly touched me that the story continues to resonate. In contrast, A Change in Altitude left me cold; not one of Shreve's best efforts.

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