Until My Soul Gets It Right by Karen Wojcik Berner #contemporary #review

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Until My Soul Gets It Right

The Bibliophiles Book 2

Written by Karen Wojcik Berner

Genre: Contemporary Women's Fiction

From the author of "A Whisper to a Scream" comes a story about growing up, making peace with your past, and finding a little love along the way.

2013 Readers’ Choice Award Nominee: BigAl’s Books & Pals

In her first novel, Karen Wojcik Berner introduced book club members Sarah and Annie. Now, it’s time for another bibliophile to take center stage.

Catherine Elbert has never been good at making decisions, whether it was choosing an ice cream flavor as a small child, or figuring out what she wanted to be when she grew up. The only thing Catherine knew for sure was there had to be more to life than being stuck on her family’s farm in Wisconsin.

While watching a PBS travel show, Catherine becomes entranced by Portland, Maine. The ocean. The lobsters. The rugged coast. Nothing could be more different from the flat, nondescript farmlands of Burkesville. Despite her parents threatening to disown her and her brothers taking bets on how many days until she comes home, Catherine settles on Peaks Island, off the coast of Portland.

She was finally free.

Or so she thought.

“Until My Soul Gets It Right” is the second book in Berner’s Bibliophiles series. Unlike most series that follow one character through various adventures, each Bibliophiles novel focuses on one or two members of a fictional suburban classics book club, revealing their personal stories while the group explores tales spun by the masters.

This edition contains a Reader's Guide and book club discussion questions.

Barbara G 's Review

"Until My Soul Gets It Right,” by Karen Wojcik Berner is the second in her Bibliophiles series, and promised a tale of “growing up, making peace with your past, and finding a little love along the way.” It does cover a lot of ground, both spanning years and the continent, unfortunately, the reader never finds that moment of peace, nor the reason for it’s lack.

Catherine Elbert is a dreamer. Her dreams are bigger than the tiny town of Burkesville, Wisconsin. The only daughter in a dour, hardworking family, it’s unclear how or why she’s regarded with such disdain. The cruel actions of her brothers and mother go beyond normal family strain, and the author never really exposes the reason for their behavior.

Breaking free of her unhappy childhood, she leaves on a whim, moving to Portland, Maine. The author provides a good travelogue view of the charming town and sets Catherine into the first reasonably friendly and warm environment of her life. After building a place for herself, Catherine begins to believe she’s found happiness, only to be shocked and surprised as tragedy crashes her fragile dreams once more.

Catherine flees to San Diego, striving to isolate herself even as her job and the people she works with begin to thaw her icy exterior. When she does finally allow others into her life, she falls headlong into love, and marriage, with someone far different from the man she had thought she knew.

The man he is, and the family and place he comes from push Catherine to the edge of another flight, another escape from a reality she finds painful and difficult to reconcile. Can she get it right this time? Can she take the lessons she learned so painfully along the way and be happy?

Unfortunately, as with the rest of the book, the true answer to these questions are buried in unrelated snatches of dialogue and jarring action. Scenes change suddenly, with little continuity less depth than I had hoped. There is little to no character development and the narrative is flat, without a nuance of emotion or feeling. You never learn why Catherin’s family, her mother especially, treat her so despicably. You don’t develop a real sense of Catherine, or any of the other characters, because you’re never shown how any of the events affect them.

The jarring introduction of the book club, which I thought was the joining element for the series, is an awkward tool to unite this book to it’s predecessor, but it left me wondering why it was even mentioned. It didn’t contribute to the plot and was yet another point at which I was pulled out of the story, wondering what I’d missed. After re-reading, it appears I didn’t miss anything. It was a contrivance, at best.

The story itself has great potential, but the lack of craft and the disjointed pacing made it a difficult read. More showing, less telling, and greater character development would move this from a 2 to a 4 on the Masq Scale.

Review Disclaimer: Book provided in exchange for an honest review.