Life is never linear and subplots are rarely graphed at convenient intervals. Our companions do not play merely supporting roles. No, there are layers and varying degrees of angles in our timelines. Often our loved ones take on the starring role in our stories.
That might have been Morris Sullivan’s perspective. A Life Apart, the excellent new novel by L.Y. Marlow, begins as his story—a young soldier aboard the USS Oklahoma, safely nestled in Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, and ends in a tangle of characters and circumstances with no true north.
In 1941, Morris’s life was moderately complicated. His marriage to Agnes, his high school girlfriend, was insecure. Confused about his lagging love and devotion to her and their baby daughter, Emma, Morris was content to focus exclusively on his work. There he felt safe, affirmed and life was predictable.
Then, all hell broke lose on December 7, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. That event was the catalyst for change in Morris’s personal life too. It’s always the same with life-changing disasters. Nothing returns to “normal”.
In, A Life Apart, the reader empathizes with Morris as the rudder of his life is wrenched from his hands and course is set toward the unimaginable. Here enter the other characters who complicate, and in some ways consume the rest of Morris’s life.
Few authors can weave five strong personalities together so well that, by the end of the book, it’s difficult to decipher who was the central protagonist. Even fewer can harness those characters, explore, follow and endear them to the reader over the course of 45 years.
L.Y. Marlow has done just that and done it superbly.
Marlow leads the reader right past several foreseeable endings. Brazenly, she layers racial conflict upon infidelity, war upon self-sacrifice and redemption, cancer upon recovery, mental illness upon academic success, deception upon brutal honesty and finally, Marlow weaves an ending of peaceful conclusion, if not “happily ever after”. As I closed the book, I felt a gentle sigh of resignation and acceptance escape my lips.
I would read this book again 100 times over, and I’ve already book marked Marlow’s other works on my Kindle. If you like excellent writing, imaginative, historical fiction and prose that inspire and inform a life-well-lived, you must read A Life Apart.