Acts of Love
Emily Listfield
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Buy *Acts of Love* by Emily Listfield online

Acts of Love
Emily Listfield
Washington Square Press
384 pages
March 2008
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Ted and Ann Waring have been separated for a year, and it is just a matter of weeks before the divorce papers come through. They have had their trials and tribulations, and while Ted wants to get back together, Ann isn’t so sure. She decides to begin dating again, and goes on her first date when Ted takes their daughters, Julia and Ali, hunting for the weekend. Upon their return, Ted and Ann begin arguing in front of Julia while Ali escapes to the kitchen. Ted loses his temper when he hears about Ann’s date. and the hunting gun that Ted is holding goes off, killing Ann.

While Ted insists it was an accident, Julia maintains that she saw her father point the gun at her mother’s head and shoot her. Though eleven-year-old Ali was in the kitchen at the time, both are adamant that she emerged right before the gun went off and can confirm what happened. However, Ali, in shock at the loss of her mother, insists she was in the kitchen the whole time and did not see what happened.

So begins Emily Listfield’s novel Acts of Love. The novel jumps back and forth between the trial and the development of Ted and Ann’s relationship. There are brief insights into each character; however, Listfield leaves it murky enough to blur the lines between innocent and guilty. It is not black-and-white for Listfield; she never paints a person as good or bad. Instead, her nuanced character development heightens the suspense of the story and leaves the reader searching for more information to make a determination as to who is telling the truth. Every time it seems as though Listfield is leaning one way or another, something happens to drive the reader’s opinion right back to the center. This ambiguity, used to lesser effect in Listfield’s Waiting to Surface, defines Acts of Love and is what keeps the reader interested in the lives of the Warings.

Listfield’s writing style is clear and moves along seamlessly, something that is imperative for Acts of Love to succeed in the way that it does. Since the subject of the book is so uncertain, if the writing were hesitant the book would fail miserably. Instead, Listfield’s sharp prose is a big part of what makes the novel compelling.

While Acts of Love is suspenseful, it would be a mistake to classify it as a suspense novel. Instead, it is about the nature of relationships and love. What is the difference between love and possessiveness? Is a person defined by their history, or can they break out of the mold? Where does one draw the line between love and need? When are the two mutually exclusive? These questions of self-introspection take Listfield’s novel one step above those that are similar.

Acts of Love is a thought-provoking and highly ambiguous novel that will leave the reader with many questions. If you are a person who likes the end of a book to neatly wrap up the story so there are no loose ends, this novel will probably be frustrating. If you like it, on the other hand, when a book requires that you think and flesh out some answers for yourself, then Acts of Love is a book you will enjoy.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Swapna Krishna, 2008

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