Thursday, September 8, 2011

Reaching Through Time by Lurlene McDaniel

Reaching Through Time is a book containing three novellas each with a twist about time. In the first story, What's Happened To Me?, Sarah awakes to find herself in a strange house with a handsome strange young man watching over her. At first she cannot remember her name or how she came to be in this place. The house and its grounds are beautiful but strange, surrounded by a menacing black fence that lets no one in and presumably no one out. Heath de Charon, the strange young man is eerily discomforting. When he touches Sarah, she cannot remember things and while she finds herself drawn to Heath, she is also wary of him. There is some mystery about him she cannot understand. She also can't understand how time seems to pass so quickly. When she goes riding with Heath the first time, Sarah notices the sun setting and Heath tells her that they've been riding for hours. But to Sarah, it seems as though no time has passed. Sarah soon begins hearing voices begging her to come back when she lays down to sleep at night. Who are the soothing, comforting voices calling to her? Why can she not remember them? No matter how loud she yells, they cannot hear her. Why?

The second story,When The Clock Chimes Drake Iverson, a sixteen year old with mild cerebral palsy is looking for a job. Drake and his mother are new to Sanderson, North Carolina where they have moved so his mother can take on a new job. Drake responds to an ad in the local newspaper for a summer student to catalogue artifacts and is hired by a professor, Avery Dennison who lives in a mysterious house with his beautiful daughter Gina. He soon discovers some quirky things about the house. His watch and cellphone won't work in the house which strangely doesn't show up on any map of Sandstone Mountain. The grandfather clock in the front hallway seems to be forever chiming the time incorrectly; sometimes slow, sometimes too fast. Gradually, Drake and Gina become friends and then fall in love. But when Gina becomes terribly sick, her father refuses to allow Drake to take her to see a doctor. Eventually Drake too becomes ill. When he recovers Drake struggles to find out what has happened to Gina as well as learning the history of the house at 13 Sandstone Mountain.

The final novella, The Mysteries of Chance explores the possibilities of time travel and changing the course of a person's life. When Maura enters one her professor's science labs she takes a time travel device and vaults herself over one hundred years into the past - 21st century America. Dylan Sorenson sees her arrive and offers her a place of sanctuary despite not knowing who or what she really is. Maura knows it is only a matter of time before the time police hunt her down. While Maura doesn't tell Dylan the truth about her situation she also comes to realize that he too has his own secret - one that is literally destroying him. When Maura learns about Dylan's past she makes a decision that will forever alter her life and Dylan's too.

For the most part, I really enjoyed each of these short stories even though they were somewhat predictable. The Mysteries of Chance however, did offer the reader an unsuspected twist that was satisfying. Lurlene McDaniel is known for writing novels that deal with life-altering medical conditions and there is some of that in each of these stories too.

My only complaint was the discussion of the condition known as "persistent vegetative state" (PVS) in The Mysteries of Chance. Although a common term today and one used to describe those who for whatever reason are unable to respond or minimally able to respond to stimuli, this story perpetuates the myth that people with PVS are not alive and should be removed from life support. In fact, they are living human beings in a condition that doctors do not really understand. People have awoken from PVS and recovered. Survivors tell of being "locked in" and unable to respond in any way with their body.

Dr. Adrian Owen, a British neuroscientist who is now located at the University of Western Ontario specializes in studying patients who are labelled as PVS. Not only has Dr. Owen been able to communicate with patients in this condition but he believes that someday we might help these people to recover.

You can investigate these ideas further in the videos below:

Reaching Through Time is a great read with a retread for a cover. Fans of Simone Elkeles' Return to Paradise will recognize the cover.

Book Details:
Reaching Through Time. Three Novellas by Lurlene McDaniel
Delacorte Press 2011
228 pp.

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