According to the most recent U.S. census figures, approximately 2.4 million grandparents -mostly single women with no formal custody arrangements - are raising their grandchildren. This trend serves as a backdrop for Everything in Its Place, Evelyn Palfrey’s fourth
‘romance for the marvelously mature.’
As the novel opens, Bobbie Strickland is beginning another weekday. That includes making sure that Monee, her nine-year-old granddaughter, is fed, dressed and off to school before she goes to work. Bobbie is the principal of an elementary school in Austin, a high-stress job that requires her to deal with bureaucracy and an assortment of personalities - from disgruntled employees to disobedient children to disagreeable parents. At the end of the day, Bobbie must make sure Monee gets to one of a number of after-school activities she is involved in and check on an elderly neighbor.
At almost 50, it is not the life Bobbie imagined for herself after raising a set of twins and putting herself through college. For a number of reasons, Monee’s mother and Bobbie’s daughter Darlene, is unable to care for her child. Although she has little free time, Bobbie takes solace in her church activities. She sings in the Mt. Moriah Church choir and is responsible for its Kitchen Ministry.
It is at church that Ray Caldwell first sees Bobbie and hears her sing. Ray is a divorced Vietnam veteran who has retired from the military after 25 years. He immediately is enthralled by Bobbie and wants to get to know her better. An opportunity to fix a pesky kitchen drawer provides him with the opportunity and he seizes it. But Bobbie has a hectic life and is certain that women her age “don’t have boyfriends.”
Everything in Its Place is a slice-of-life novel which is more mainstream than romance. However, Evelyn Palfrey’s fans will enjoy the credible story of Baby Boomers adjusting to this phase of their lives. The author has created human and humane characters. They are willing to take responsibility for some aspects of their lives, while unable to admit their responsibility for others. For example, Ray’s attention to regimen and keeping everything in its place served him well as an Army supply officer, but derailed and colored his view of his first marriage.
The elements of an Evelyn Palfrey novel are apparent here - aging Baby Boomers, moonlight, a body of water, an RV and a mystery to be solved. There is a surprising appearance by two characters from a previous novel readers will enjoy. The relationship between the two main characters is credible. And, there is also a touching hint at a secondary romance among seniors in an extended care facility.
Everything in its Place is a mature novel that abandons gratuitous drama and plot twists to provide a straightforward story about intergenerational conflicts, hypocrisy, first impressions, and romance. It’s worth a look.