C.H. Lazarovich displays lovely wordcraft in the descriptive passages of her novel, ANOTHER SIDE OF THE HEART. This is especially true in its opening chapters, which introduce her grieving protagonist, Mary DeVere, as she approaches the first anniversary of her daughter’s death. The beloved island that she has turned to for the summer—her husband conspicuously absent—is “barnacled with memories.” In New York City, she watches “clouds over the skyscrapers like lids.” Lazarovich also handles exposition deftly, and she paints this most shattering of all losses a parent can know with devastating, detailed brushstrokes—somehow both deep and fragile. The author’s nimble turns of phrase help the reader forgive the story’s well-trod path of narrative conflict: while her husband grieves by burying himself in his career on an extended trip across Europe, Mary learns that an old lover—her first—lives on the island. Antonio is, unsurprisingly, handsomer, sexier, and more attentive to her needs than her passionless, intellectual husband. Of course he reignites her lust, especially when she learns that his decades-old love for her has never ceased.
In an interesting sub-plot that freshens the main story’s trope, Antonio is also a successful developer who has angered the town’s year-round old-timers with the McMansions he has built on consignment for the “seasonals,” as they refer to folks like Mary, who live there only in the summertime. (At one point, Mary observes of few of these greeting themselves with “sidehugging and air kissing like a string of puppets.”) They also, paradoxically, meet with hostility his desire to construct an affordable living complex so that workers and others lower on the economic ladder can afford to remain on the island. Additional elements in the story are Antonio’s daughter, pregnant by a ne’er-do-well he disapproves of, and—looming over both Antonio and Mary like the black storm clouds that keep her up at night—the pregnancy that she ended (along with their relationship) back when they were lovers.
Such complexities in characters and situation carry the novel a long way, and the author’s frank and compassionate depiction of abortion in this mainstream novel is commendable. But other developments begin to unravel the story, particularly Antonio’s ex-wife, Mercedes, and her predictable role as little more than a device to move things along. The story sags in the middle; verbs grow passive. Clunkers like “my life was envious to others,” “I’d made a mark with Mark,” and—not once, but twice—“It’s not what you think” replace the earlier (and sweeter) imagery. A stolen bucket intended to serve as a metaphor and increasingly bald uses of the unsubtly named dog (“Karma knocked me over”) strain patience and weaken the latter portion of the novel. (Also, albeit beyond the author’s control, the book is poorly edited, with punctuation—and, occasionally, an article or two—missing.) Most disappointing are the final 40 pages of the book, which push through abrupt character shifts, a convenient and flabby surprise, and a hurried ending that sweep away much of the edifice that Lazarovich had so carefully built throughout the earlier pages.
C.H. Lazarovich’s novel about choices, ANOTHER SIDE OF THE HEART, starts strong with haunting imagery and an interesting sub-plot; but the novel is seriously weakened by cliched obstacles, character tropes, and a forced ending.
~Anne Welsbacher for IndieReader