Samantha's "Top Shelf" Selection: Linda Holmes' Evvie Drake Starts Over
"The amount of time people who have just met are supposed to look directly at each other, particularly without talking, is a unit that's both very short and very precise. When you exceed it, you get suspicious, or you get threatened, or you get this flicker of accidental intimacy, like you've peeked at the person naked through a shower door." - Linda Holmes, Evvie Drake Starts Over
Linda Holmes' debut novel, Evvie Drake Starts Over, is witty, emotional and charming, and I’m delighted to add it to And She Writes’ Top Shelf collection.
Evvie Drake, a recent childless widow, is adjusting to life after her high school sweetheart-turned-husband dies in a car accident. After his death, Evvie is left to work through her grieving as she attempts to move her life forward. One of the first things she has to grapple with is living alone in a beautiful and large house.
When her best friend, Andy, suggests his childhood friend and former MLB pitcher, Dean Tenney, rent Evvie’s attached apartment, she has few concerns. Since Evvie isn’t a sports fan or MLB enthusiast, it’s a safe set-up for both parties. She agrees to the arrangement, in part, because Andy has been a supportive best friend and she wants to help him (and his friend).
After a successful yet embarrassing ending to his professional baseball career, Dean leaves New York City and moves into Evvie’s apartment. Dean’s sudden inability to pitch with no explanation leaves him reeling. Searching for a quiet place to live and plan his future, he finds refuge in Evvie’s apartment in the beautiful small Maine town.
Throughout the story, Evvie and Dean’s journeys through grief are unrelated but intersect. Holmes, the host of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, does a masterful job of forging new and separate paths for Evvie and Dean while developing unexpected feelings between the two of them. Their characters are authentic, inspiring and funny with several raw, quirky and heartfelt moments shared between the two of them.
In addition, Evvie and Dean’s relationships with their friends and family are genuine and well-balanced and play important roles in their lives and the storyline. These relational dynamics impress upon the audience the complexity of Evvie and Dean’s respective situations.
While this is a fictional story, it leaves readers feeling overwhelmingly moved by the struggles and emotions between these two broken characters. It’s a testament to strong writing and dialogue. Evvie and Dean have very little in common from the outset but share in the pain and joy of self rediscovery. I was rooting for both of them!
Holmes’ well-developed characters and laugh out loud humor are the perfect recipe for a great book hangover. Her characters stayed with me long after I finished their story. Evvie Drake Starts Over is an enjoyable read that you’ll want to add to your list!