Thursday, 1 November 2012

Almost Heaven by Susan X Meagher

Cody Keaton lives in a dilapidated trailer up in the mountains in Ramp, West Virginia. She lives from day to day and hand to mouth, barely eking out a living and she’s usually stony broke. She’s basically happy and doesn’t believe happiness can be bought. When Cody is given a lottery ticket after returning a lost one dollar bill, the last thing she expects is to win big time. When she does, she’s so shocked, she wonders if she should just throw the ticket away rather than complicate her life with the millions she’s won. When she calms down and has seriously thought it through, she collects her winnings and decides to spend it sparingly. Just for essentials and the extra security having money can bring.

Cody’s large extended family of aunts, uncles cousins and various offspring, don’t agree with her and have other ideas. Soon the requests and demands come piling in. Houses, cars, cash, clothing and all manners of things the family feel they have to have. They all see it as their god given right to share Cody’s winnings.

Bank manager, Maddie Osborne, can see that Cody is going to be in deep trouble if she doesn’t sort out her finances quickly. Cody has never had cause to be in a bank, let alone to know anything about handling vast sums of money or investments. Maddie takes it upon herself to try to advise her newest, richest, shy customer. She’s going to have her work cut out trying to protect the vulnerable Cody from people who have designs on her money. Even Cody’s family have to be stopped somehow.

Amidst all this, Maddie finds herself falling in love with Cody. But Cody is a customer and it wouldn’t be ethical. Cody has feelings for Maddie too. But she can’t allow herself to fall in love with a woman who’s ambition is to move to a bigger city and to climb the career ladder. Anyway, Cody asks herself what Maddie would see in a hillbilly like herself. Even if they did decide to take a chance on love, Maddie wouldn’t be happy in Ramp and Cody couldn’t possibly be happy in a big city. Will there be a chance one or the other of them can change or will they have to go their own separate ways?

Quite simply put, I love this book. It’s one of the best Susan Meagher has written. I’ve loved some of Susan’s other books, among them Arbor Vitae and All That Matters, this is up there on a par with these two favorites of mine.

The story is well written, tender, passionate, humorous and the book had me riveted from the first page right through to the last page. Even though this book is fairly long, I still didn’t have enough.

I love both main characters. Cody is so vulnerable and lovable, she’s had everything so hard throughout her life, it was great to see her blossoming with her good fortune. Maddie is a high flyer, managing a small bank in a small town. She wants more. But when she starts helping out Cody, she discovers a love for the great outdoors. Together Cody and Maddie begin to learn more about how each other lives.

When Cody decides to come out to her family, she isn’t really telling them anything they didn’t already know. Although they are not too happy, they don’t get on her back too much either. Eventually they come to accept that Cody has her own life to lead and if she happens to want a woman, that’s fine with them.

The scenic descriptions were vivid and colorful. I could easily visualize myself being there up in the mountains, hunting, or fishing or in the bank with Maddie. The whole book was a delight to immerse myself in.

I like the way the story left nothing and no stone unturned. Everything was explained and shown in a descriptive way rather than being told with cold hard facts.

It’s nice to see the way Cody gradually comes out of her shell, how she becomes more confident and begins to learn to trust people. I liked seeing how Maddie slowly changed too and how she began to realize that material things really didn’t matter when she had nature all around her.

I’m not sure if there is a moral to this story, but I’ve personally taken a lot from this book. The main thing being, that money is nice to have, but it really can’t buy everything, love and happiness included.

I’m putting this in my re-read pile. I will definitely be reading it again very soon.

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