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Reviews of Aditi andBetween Midnight And Morning:Novels by Beverly Mitchell Dodd

 

Aditi as reviewed by US Review of Books

Erin, a middle aged woman, abruptly leaves her husband after realizing her life is empty. Without much forethought, she visits a cousin who turns out to have changed drastically, engages in a disastrous one-night stand, then catches a lift from a complete stranger after her car breaks down. Finally, after buying a cheap used car, she takes on a young man her son’s age who winds up more trouble than he is worth. Erin winds up at Terencil, a mountain home filled with battered or traumatized women. They espouse a "no man on the premises" policy and practice a feminist worship of a Goddess figure.

Erin befriends Aditi, a recovering alcoholic, their relationship growing intense. Aditi is not so bound by the house rules as the others, and soon Erin accompanies her on visits to Bruce, a middle-aged furniture maker who lives deep in the forest. Eventually Aditi flees abruptly. The house begins to fall apart, and Erin moves in with Bruce. One of the Terencil women's daughter shows up, incoherent, and Bruce attempts to get help. Erin begins to live on scraps, holed up in the now-abandoned Terencil. She witnesses a young woman being battered by her husband and enters a final confrontation threatening Erin's life again.

The theme is one of feminist awareness, Erin representing a middle class woman abruptly initiated into this philosophy through her experiences with marriage and men. Told as if addressing Aditi, the author allows us access to Erin's thoughts and feelings as she moves from acolyte of matriarchal world view to a more independent and self-determined woman willing to give battle to real-world victimization. The characters are recognizable, the plot sufficiently fraught with dramatic tension to keep the pages turning.

 

Between Midnight and Morning is a character driven novel that delves deeply into the psyche of its main character Lena as she struggles to deal with faith and conformity in the midst of a devastating tragedy. Dealing with her own trauma induced disorder, while trying to meet the expectations of her family and friends, causes tremendous conflict for Lena as she tries desperately to find herself and her new path in life. The writing style is at times both tense and deceptively simple. The complexities of ordinary life become a gauntlet as the reader hungers for resolution. Once you start to read, you are drawn towards the inevitable conclusion.

Lawrence D. Neidrauer

 

Between Midnight and Morning, by Beverly Mitchell Dodd, is a hard-hitting women's fiction novel that explores the dichotomy between personal freedom and family obligations and traditions.

When Lena turns eighteen, she leaves her home, her father and sister, and their church and religious beliefs. In her new life she meets Cos, she marries young, and has her son, Nathan, soon after. However, she can't escape her painful past. Years pass and then something terrible happens. Lena and Nathan move back home, and she feels trapped in the past and present. Will she be able to pull herself out of her funk and see the light?

This is not an easy book to read. The writing is raw, honest, and stripped of sentimentality. And it may hit home with many readers. The author isn't afraid to show the grim reality of life: that not everything works out according to plan. Even though Lena experiences two tragedies, it's not just these tragedies that send her spiraling into darkness. It's life. She's being pulled in so many directions. Her family expects her to act a certain way. So does her son. So do the men in her life. Also, her community is quite religious as is her family. Lena is always questioning when those around her expect her to accept everything with blind faith. And on top of that she has to contend with everyday life: bills, job, grocery shopping, and all the other mundane details that are difficult to do when you don't even have the energy to get out of bed. Life alone is enough to drive anyone mad, and when you add two tragedies, it can seem impossible.

While this is a difficult read, it's also well worth reading. It puts life in perspective. Many will probably relate to Lena on some level. She's not the easiest character to like and the author does an excellent job of showing all sides of Lena. At times you feel for her. Then angry. Soon frustration sets in. All of these feelings repeat over and over. Humans are flawed.

Flawed characters in novels add realism, and they make for wonderful character studies. While not a lot of action happens in this novel, it's never dull. Dodd's writing pulls the reader into Lena's mind and at times it can be terrifying. Her thoughts, memories, and ideas are always jumbled, making for a jarring read until you settle into the style. Once you get into the rhythm, it not only makes sense, but helps you understand the main character even more. She's floundering. While you may not always understand Lena or are frustrated by her, you can't stop hoping she'll pull it together. The author taunts the reader with this hope. Lena takes a step forward, and then five back. Strangely, though, the hope never subsides.

Even though this isn't the coziest of novels, it doesn't seem overly dark. Lena is the type of character that leaves an impression and you may wonder well after finishing, how she's doing. That's a sign of good storytelling.

4 stars

SPR Book Review

I enjoyed reading this novel immensely. Lena’s struggle to extricate herself from what she had been brought up to believe moved me to tears. I can certainly relate. I think many people who have experienced tragedy in their lives have questioned their religious beliefs. I know many are silent and keep the questions to themselves the way Lena did because somehow in our “free” society, we’re not allowed to express honest opinions about religion. I’m so happy to see a book like this written. I think the author is very courageous. I hope others read it.

Sara H.