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This week, I had started and stopped reading three novels -- making it to 25%, and then giving up on them. I was about to call it a bad week of reading for me, and then I started reading Thomasine Rappold's debut novel, The Lady Who Lived Again, finished it, and loved it.
It's New York in the Gilded Age, but Thomasine Rappold has chosen to set her story in the gray and bleak, and appropriately named town of Misty Lake. I like the idea of "mist" -- that not-quite middke ground between clear and hazy -- not as solid-looking as clouds, but not a shapeless notion as fog -- it's perfect for the world where Madeline lives in: where her gift of healing lives alongside modern science.
Madeline Sutter was, perhaps, the fairest of the Fair Five. The leader of a group of the most beautiful and sought-after girls in Misty Lake. The world was their oyster, and everyone adored them. Life was good, and the future for all four girls was bright. Then the world turned upside down, when a birthday picnic in the mountains of Misty Lake ends in the tragic death of Madeline and her friends, but, strangely, Madeline returns from the dead a day after -- coincidentally on Friday the 13th.
Now Madeline bears the scars of the accident, the hostility of the families of her friends, the directed enmity of the town's pastor, and the suspicion of the rest of the town.
For three years, Madeline has accepted her lot as outcast, but, when her only friend, Amelia, one of the Fair Five (who was on holiday at the time of the accident), decides to return to Misty Lake for her wedding, and asks her the be part of the wedding party, Madeline's first instinct is to refuse, but, then, she realizes that Amelia might be right -- that this might be her chance to regain her place in society.
Jace Merrick is the new town Doctor: young, fresh from the Big City -- armed with skills and modern ideas. Jace is looks my for a fresh start after serving in the emergency rooms of Pittsburgh. He is weary and wary, and he is hoping that Misty Lake might restore a little bit of his faith in the world.
This is Thomasine Rappold's mesmerizing and compelling story of two people seeking for the light at the end of the tunnel. Both of them have handled themselves very well and survived on their own, but they discover that life, and the world becomes more bearable when they are together. What keeps you reading Rappold's debut novel is following Madeline's arduous journey, and how she bears the unbearable burden of being the only survivor of the town's worst tragedy. Her only allies are her grandfather, who is too sick and frail, and is confined to the house, her friend Amelia, whose family moved away from Misty Lake, and Jace Merrick, a new addition to the town.
You can't help but admire Madeline, who possesses a quiet dignity, and an overwhelming grace in the face of open hostility, but she is not perfect. You can see Madeline struggle, stumble, and fall -- but you also see a different Madeline, remnants of the old Madeline, one who charms and teases her way to getting what she wants. And I love that Madeline does not wallow in being a martyr -- she keeps herself active and proactive, despite all opposition.
Jace is a modern man who now lives in a town that hasn't moved forward: they've had the same pastor, they've had the same doctor, the same mercantile store owner, etc. -- it's a town that is alive, and bustling, but not quite at the same pace as the rest of the country. When Jace first meets Madeline, he is intrigued by her beauty -- and when he finds out Madeline's story, the scientist in him is intrigued even more.
Love and logic are at opposing poles for Jace, who struggles to maintain a professional distance from Madeline -- and with good reason: if he is to help Madeline regain the town's good opinion, she must preserve her reputation, and, if Jace is to be Madeline's greatest defender, he must show that he is an unbiased opinion. Madeline knows that her gifts are counter Jace's medical background, and the last thing she wants to do is expose herself to more scrutiny and judgment -- but the temptation to experience desire, to be admired for herself and not for her past -- it is irresistible.
Our hero and heroine represent opposite ends of the spectrum: Madeline relies on her emotions and feelings, and Jace is very analytical -- but, they compliment each other very well. Both are able to provide a unique perspective for the other -- I really love how well they worked together in Jace's clinic. ^_^
The Lady Who Lived Again, is, at it's core, a story of "you and me, against the world" -- and Thomasine Rappold could have easily created flat one-dimensional villains, but, the author does the fair thing, and provides the town with an honest, legitimate reason: someone's daughter, sister, granddaughter, cousin, or friend, died that day -- and they can't help but resent and be angry at Madeline, who survived, despite being the one driving the wagon. The town pastor, and the town doctor, could have, as moral pillars, called for calm, and order, but, they, too -- lost that day, and would stand to lose even more if they had stood by Madeline.
How the author resolves all is just as wonderful, and, for me, seals the deal -- making this a true 5-star read for me.
The Lady Who Lived Again is book 1 in Thomasine Rappold's Sole Survivor series, and her debut novel. To find out more about Thomasine Rappold and her books, click below: