cover image This Earth You'll Come Back To

This Earth You'll Come Back To

Barbara Roether. McPherson & Co. (Ingram, dist.), $16 trade paper (248p) ISBN 978-1-62054-015-2

This sensitive and memorable novel from Roether employs a dead narrator, Rose Healy Koehner, who recounts her eventful life story in fragmented fashion to her youngest daughter, Stephanie. After returning to her hometown of Blanchardville, Ohio, in 2008, middle-aged Stephanie, who lives in San Francisco with her husband, Mark, and son, Whitman, visits Rose's gravesite and is surprised to be addressed by her mother. In her crusty, outspoken, and sometimes humorous voice, Rose describes the daunting challenges of raising 10 children in near poverty with her mostly drunken husband, Rusty. The most compelling parts of Rose's personal chronicle emerge as she paints the complex portrait of the turbulent but always loving relationship she had with her daughter. Stephanie was sexually assaulted at age 14 by a mentally unstable family member, an event that left permanent emotional scars; Stephanie ran away from home, had abortions, and roamed the world in search of happiness and self-fulfillment. Rose's ghost admits, albeit much too late, her inadequacy to assist in Stephanie's recovery from the trauma. She also divulges her lifelong joy in books and recalls her visit to Stephanie while the latter was living as a hippie in Oregon. As Rose winds up her inspiring beyond-the-grave saga, Roether shows how mother and daughter kept their bonds strong despite the distances, emotional and geographic, that too often separated them. (Nov.)