Monday, November 12, 2012

Review of "At Every Turn" by Anne Mateer

Rating: 4.5 Stars
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Summary:  Caught up in a whirlwind of religious enthusiasm, Alyce Benson impetuously pledges three thousand dollars to mission work in Africa. Now she just has to find a way to get the money.

Alyce harbors a secret passion for speed and automobiles, and she's spent many an afternoon driving around the rustic track in the field behind her home. When she discovers that her father's company has sponsored a racing car that will compete in several upcoming events--races in which the driver will be paid and could win as much as five thousand dollars in prize money--she conspires with her father's mechanic, Webster, to train and compete.

But when her friends cast aspersions on Webster's past, she realizes she may have trusted the wrong person with her secret. Will Alyce come up with the money in time, or will she have to choose between her hasty promise and the man who holds a piece of her heart?  - Bethany House

Review: A book about early auto racing usually wouldn't appeal to me since I am definitely not a fan of racing.  When I first picked up "At Every Turn," I wondered how much emphasis would be placed on the racing aspect of the plot.  In the past, novels that focus too much on sports have not ranked among my favorites, but Anne Mateer's latest novel is an exception.  A very pleasing exception. 

Mateer paints a unique vignette of the early 1900s.  There are parts of the plot that are predictable; but as a whole, it is fresh and exciting, mainly because of the auto racing.  What I originally perceived as a possible turn off, became one of the most intriguing aspects of the novel.  The racing sequences provided rushes of unpredictable action that kept me constantly engaged. Meanwhile, some of the garage scenes between Alyce and Webster reminded me of the interactions between Sybil and Branson in "Downton Abbey."   

Alyce and Webster's relationship is understated, yet satisfying. Mateer proves that building a romance between two characters does not need to rely heavily on physical affection.  Their interactions are restrained, but it is obvious that they each harbor deeper feelings under the surface. Adding to the interest, the novel is told solely from Alyce's perspective. Webster's past is cloaked in secrecy, and his true character is revealed only as the novel progresses.  

Alyce Benson is a feisty and charming heroine. Her impetuousness propels her into tense, and sometimes humorous situations.  Mateer adds depth to Alyce's adventurous and unconventional personality throughout the novel.  Alyce makes a number of mistakes and poor decisions, but they ultimately help her to grow spiritually and personally. Viewing the story through Alyce's eyes provides meaningful insights into her faith, her giving heart, and her motives.  Those qualities take her beyond the boundaries of spunkiness to a more multi-dimensional character. 

"At Every Turn" is definitely a book that will remain on my bookshelf.  It has the ideal combination of light-hearted moments and periods of  introspection. 

I received a complimentary copy of this novel from Bethany House.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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