BOOK TOUR REVIEW & GIVEAWAY: The Conditions of Love by Dale M. Kushner
The Conditions of Love
by Dale M. Kushner
In 1953, ten-year-old Eunice lives in the backwaters of Wisconsin with her outrageously narcissistic mother, a manicureeste and movie star worshipper.
Abandoned by her father as an infant, Eunice worries that she will become a misfit like her mother. When her mother’s lover, the devoted Sam, moves in, Eunice imagines her life will finally become normal. But her hope dissolves when Sam gets kicked out, and she is again alone with her mother. A freak storm sends Eunice away from all things familiar. Rescued by the shaman-like Rose, Eunice’s odyssey continues with a stay in a hermit’s shack and ends with a passionate love affair with an older man. Through her capacity to redefine herself, reject bitterness and keep her heart open, she survives and flourishes. In this, she is both ordinary and heroic. At once fable and realistic story, The Conditions of Love is a book about emotional and physical survival. Through sheer force of will, Eunice saves herself from a doomed life.
MY THOUGHTS: 3.5 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
This novel spans over fifty years in the life of Eunice. As it begins, Eunice is about 10 and living with her mother, Mern, who doesn’t treat Eunice as a daughter so much as a pal or even a nuisance. Mern frequently goes out, leaving young Eunice alone, and brings through a string of paramours that Eunice notices but doesn’t care for.
When her mother finally settles down with a nice man that Eunice loves, Mern cannot hold on to him and plunges both herself and her daughter into a new town in an attempt to make a change in their lives. But the woman cannot change, and Eunice once again must fend for herself. Along the way, she is taken in by several kind (or at least kind seeming) folks who affect her life in their own ways. Eunice realizes, as she grows, that she’s not the only one she can rely on, and people can love her if she’s just let them.
As I finished this book, my overwhelming feeling was one of sadness and somewhat of pity for the hard life that the main character had to live. Yes, she pulled herself up from her horrible upbringing and made the best of it, but she never had a real childhood and was forced to grow up way too soon–mostly because her mother could not.
With that being said, the best parts of the book were definitely the interactions between mother and daughter. They both affected and reflected each other, and were more alike than they cared to acknowledge. Eunice of course loves her mother, but it was never clear to me whether Mern felt the same way about her daughter. Mern would often get jealous when her male companions showed Eunice the slightest bit of attention, but would also scorn men if they ignored her. This back and forth juxtaposition led Eunice to some confusing feelings about romantic relationships with men as she got older.
There is a relationship between Eunice and a much older man, so if that bothers you in literature you should not read this book. He did not take advantage of her; it was actually Eunice who did the pursuing and in her way, forced herself into his heart. I didn’t feel it was a very passionate romance until very late in the book, however. And even then, it wasn’t a hot, fiery love–more like a mutual comfort and respect for each other as they went through a tough ordeal together.
I did feel a bit slighted at the end of this book. I was hoping for a more detailed conveyance of how Mern and Eunice came to find each other again, but then again I guess the way the author explained things fit Mern’s character right.
Ultimately, I will say I was very invested in the first half of this book, but after that there are several stale parts and an ending that may not leave every reader completely satisfied. If you’re one of those readers that lives to see a character grow up throughout the pages of a book, this one is for you.
About the Author
Dale M. Kushner is a poet and writer. Her work has been widely published in literary journals including IMAGE, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Salmagundi, Witness, Fifth Wednesday and elsewhere. Her most recent poetry collection More Alive Than Lions Roaring was a finalist for the May Swenson Poetry Award at Utah State Press and The Prairie Schooner Book Competition. In 2010 she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Ms. Kushner has studied at the C. G. Jung Institute in Zurich and has an ongoing interest in Buddhism and spiritual life. She lives with her husband in Madison, Wisconsin. The Conditions of Love is her first novel.
Connect with Dale at her website, dalemkushner.com.