Things Remembered
by Georgia Bockoven
(Harper, $6.50, PG) ISBN 0-06-101315-3
****
In Things Remembered, Georgia Bockoven offers readers a contemporary romance in the manner she does best. Here we have three sisters, raised by their grandmother after their parents' death. Heather is the happily married mother of two, with a third on the way. Grace is the self-absorbed, immature youngest, trying to make a go of it as an actress in L.A. And Karla is the oldest, owner of a coffee shop in Northern California. Karla, who had the most tumultuous relationship with her grandmother, Anna, and is full of wounds never healed. This is primarily Karla's story.

Karla leaves her coffee shop in the hands of her ex-husband and his new girlfriend and returns home to the town of Rocklin, a trip made reluctantly and for the most uncomfortable of reasons. Grandmother Anna is slowly dying of congestive heart failure, and it is up to Karla, the responsible caretaker of the family, to put Anna's affairs in order.

From the first time we see them together, Anna and Karla strike sparks. Karla is prickly and defensive, ready to infer slights where none are intended. Anna is equally stubborn, determined to grasp this last chance to make peace with her granddaughter. These two have a lot of walls to break down.

At first, Karla wants nothing more than to get away. But slowly, Anna and Karla come to understand each other. And each has something the other wants. Karla wants Anna's memories of her beloved mother as a child, and Anna wants Karla's memories of her beloved daughter as a grown woman. They agree to fill in each other's gaps, and in doing so, forge a deep bond of love and respect as they discover how alike they really are.

Karla is further confused and enthralled by Mark Taylor, a divorced veterinarian with a young daughter. Mark offers an instant, easy friendship with a good deal of sexual attraction, but Karla is afraid to believe that it can be anything more than a fling. Their burgeoning relationship forces Karla to examine just what it is she wants from life and what she's willing to do to get it.

Readers who enjoy stories about sibling relationships will find a lot to like here. At times I could identify with each of the sisters, especially Heather in her exasperation with Karla, who continues to bail Grace out of financial bind after financial bind. Everything about these three reads absolutely authentic: the dialogue, the actions, the reactions.

My only quibble was that I felt I didn't have enough background on Karla and Anna to understand why their relationship was so very strained. It seemed to hang on the notion that neither of these two ever talked to each other or asked the most basic of questions. Kind of like a strong and beautiful house built on a slightly shaky foundation.

And by the way, boohiss to Harper's art department, which apparently didn't read the book. This supposedly is set in a fast-growing town, so why is the Victorian house pictured on the cover set out in the middle of the country? A little consistency would have been nice. Don't get me wrong, it's a lovely cover, but it's sure not representative of the story.

Nevertheless, Things Remembered is one of the most enjoyable contemporaries I've read in a while. Karla and Anna will capture a piece of your heart.

--Cathy Sova


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