Review

Souvenir

by Therese Anne Fowler

In
her poignant fiction debut, SOUVENIR, Therese Fowler fashions a
story guaranteed to wring tears, provoke controversy and strike
fear into the heart of any web-surfing teenager’s
parents.

After an idyllic romance in her teens with her soul mate, Carson
McKay (the proverbial boy next door), Meg Powell marries for money
to save her family’s Florida horse farm. That she is
conflicted and has thrown caution to the winds is evident from the
prologue, where the morning of her wedding she makes love with
Carson. Frustratingly (for the reader), Meg is unwilling to tell
him the truth. She has rejected him to become a martyr for her
family.

Fast forward a decade and a half plus some change. Meg is trapped
in a loveless marriage with Brian Hamilton, the banker who cajoled
her to take “the deal” that saved the farm and cost
Brian and his father $387,000. Once Brian married Meg, we discover
that he has become an absentee husband and dad, spending more time
on investments and his golf swing than developing any intimacy with
his wife or relationship with his daughter.

Meg is now an obstetrician, but she is losing her strength and
isn’t sure why. Cue ominous music. It appears something is
wrong, and the reader will grasp the seriousness of her affliction
when her delivery of a baby goes awry. Meg’s diagnosis will
change her marriage, her relationship with her daughter and how she
wants to spend her life.

Meanwhile, Meg’s daughter, Savannah, a honeymoon baby
(questions immediately pop into the reader’s mind), has
carved out her own private world apart from her parents. Spoiled
and naïve, she has met a handsome older hunk on the Internet
and is making surreptitious plans to meet him and have sex for the
first time. Meg and her husband Brian, caught up in work and their
own leisure pursuits, are oblivious to the drama unfolding with
their daughter. Cue more ominous music. Bad stuff is definitely
ahead.

Meanwhile, Carson has become a rock star (suspend disbelief a bit
here) and is living the life of the rich and famous. He is engaged
to a much younger woman, Valerie Haas, a beautiful svelte surfer
who lives a high-energy lifestyle that makes him…tired. He
already has been through all the accouterments of the rock-and-roll
culture --- drugs, money, wild sex --- but something is missing
from his life. And the reader won’t have to guess what that
is. His songs reflect the love he has lost with Meg, and he has
never quite gotten over her. While Carson thinks he loves
Valerie, there is plenty of insecurity about his upcoming nuptials.
But he reflects: “A man could get used to just about anything
if he set his mind to it.” Women of a certain age may love
the idea that Carson can’t get his first romance out of his
mind. Even a beautiful and sexier young woman plus money to burn
aren’t enough. Sigh.

Tough times are coming (all that ominous music playing in your head
was a clue), and the fallout from Savannah’s Internet
experiences will make parental readers immediately lunge to unplug
their teens from their computers. Although the novel is not in any
sense moralistic in tone, it nonetheless could open some good
discussions between parents and teens. Moms, keep an eye on what
your kids are doing online.

The most controversial part of the novel is Meg’s resolution
regarding her diagnosis and how she spends her final months of
life. But agree or disagree, there are enough moving scenes,
poignant letters to Savannah and plucked heartstrings to make you
reach for the Kleenex.

SOUVENIR is a smooth read, full of romance, vicarious thrills
(especially in scenes between Carson and his fiancée) and
thought-provoking scenarios. Book clubs will find plenty to discuss
here, and middle-aged women with teens will resonate with the
mothering and marital dilemmas. No matter what you think of the
ending, Fowler’s story will keep you reading until the last
paragraph.

Souvenir
by Therese Anne Fowler

  • Publication Date: February 12, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • ISBN-10: 0345499689
  • ISBN-13: 9780345499684