Saluting the Sun
Mary Hutchings Reed
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Buy *Saluting the Sun* by Mary Hutchings Reedonline

Saluting the Sun
Mary Hutchings Reed
Ampersand, Inc.
260 pages
February 2015
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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There are two strong women in this engaging, quixotic adventure, but neither knows her own strengths—yet. Nevaeh (that’s “heaven spelled backwards”) leaves the encroaching winter in Prairie du Chien after Tray, her lover and partner in minor crime, defects one day from their tree house aerie. She heads to the sunny, bohemian street life of New Orleans where, with Phillipé The Phabulous, she makes beautiful music—with wineglasses. Meanwhile, in the icier climate of Chicago, Nevaeh’s distant cousin Dawn Ann struggles to find a warm, safe niche as a weathercaster on local TV, while her photographer husband, Derek, is developing hazardous habits in the darkroom.

Nevaeh—spontaneous and a little too fast and loose with sex and demon rum—hits rock bottom, forced to reach out to her older, presumably wiser, relative. Dawn Ann—a coiffed confection trying to deny the ugly truth boiling on the backburner at home while keeping up a front on the current weather scene—looks forward to the comfort of having a family visitor. But neither realizes the disturbing effect this will have on Derek.

This confluence—and possible conflagration—is energetically choreographed by novelist (Courting Kathleen Hannigan, Warming Up) Mary Hutchings Reed. Reed sends the vagabond Nevaeh down the road to almost nowhere, poised to blow her chances by going one bus ride too far, and leaves Dawn Ann frozen in Derek-denial, unable to admit to herself or others that hubby is capable of spousal abuse until it’s almost too late. Were it not for a persistent, loyal friend and a long-lost figure from the past making a comeback, all might be lost.

Reed has a seemingly endless supply of crackling insights, pulling them out like magician’s scarves; as here, when Nevaeh considers the trip she’s been on:

She didn’t need Tray and she didn’t need Phil. She was tough and independent. The sad part was that she was, in many ways, on the lam, starting all over yet again and again alone.”
Or here, as Dawn Ann begins to question her adulation of her flawed spouse:
It occurred to her now that Derek was her adolescent rebellion—the high school drunk, the missed curfew, the ditched school day she’d never had.
Focusing on two females—one dreamy, one dizzy, both dynamic—Saluting the Sun demonstrates that weather, both inner and outer, can have a strong impact on personalities, and most importantly, that “heaven spelled backwards” is not such a bad place, just…different…and at times, delightful.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Michael Leonard, 2013

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