Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publication Date: 2010
Publisher: The Story Plant
Source: Providence Book Promotions
Welcome to Oldham, CT, a small town rich in Colonial heritage while being utterly contemporary. Situated along the Connecticut River Valley, Oldham bursts with color every fall, as the leaves on its trees evolve into an unmatched palette of scarlet, orange, purple, yellow, and bronze. For more than three decades, the Gold family has been a central part of Oldham in the fall, its Sugar Maple Inn a destination for "leaf-peepers” from all over the country, and its annual Halloween party a stirring way to punctuate the town’s most active month.
But this year, more than just the leaves are changing. With the death of their parents, the Gold siblings, Maria, Maxwell, Deborah, Corrina, and Tyler, have decided to sell the Sugar Maple Inn, and this year’s Halloween party will be the last. As October begins, the Golds contend with the finality that faces them, and the implications it has for a family that has always been so close. For some, it means embracing new challenges and new love. For others, it means taking on unimagined roles. And for others, it means considering the inconceivable. Complicating it all is a series of "hauntings” that touch each of the Gold siblings, a series of benign interventions that will remain a mystery until October draws to a close.
Filled with romance, tension, and unforgettable family drama, Leaves is the first in a series of novels about a world and a family that readers will want to make their own.
Plot Grade: A-
The overall plot to Leaves is not unique. Basically, Leaves is the story what happens to a family once both parents are gone (in this cases deceased). While the plot is not unique, I think Michael Baron handle the subject masterfully. It did not read like the same old story and even though it was technically a family drama, the drama wasn't so over the top that readers could not relate to what was happening. I enjoyed how Baron handled the family dynamic, in the hands of other writers this same story might have come of dull and I might not have been able to finish it. But Baron was able to weave the past and the present in such a way that the story of the Gold was entertaining.
The hardest element of Leaves for me was the characters. There were just so many of them and while it was easy to tell them apart and get to know their stories. It was hard to adjust at times. One minute, the reader is in the kitchen with Deborah and the next the reader is playing the guitar with Corrina. I understood why Baron wrote the story in alternating characters (all within the same chapter) but it did not help with the flow.
While, I like all the characters and enjoyed their stories, I had a hard time connecting with them. Mainly because there was five of them and secondly because so little time is spent with each character. It would have completely changed the Leaves to read Leaves from the point of view of only one character but at times I wished that their were smoother transitions from character to character.
All of the characters had distinctive voices and stories. The only character that I found inconsistent was Corrina. In the eyes of her siblings she is a control freak that rules that family. But when the story is told from her "point of view" I just didn't see behavior in her day to day interactions with others to support that characterization.
There is not much to say about Baron's writing other than he has skills. There was never a point where the story dragged or I was bored and felt like I should skip a few paragraphs or pages. In fact, I was engaged the whole time. One element that I really enjoyed was "hauntings" only two of them would be considered "big deals" the others were sort of like small hallucination that they characters could have easily imagined. They did not seem out of place with the story and helped to move the story forward while at the same time providing insight into the characters and their background.
Explanation of Rating:
Overall, I enjoyed Leaves by Michael Baron. It was the story of a family going through a rough transition without being over the top and dramatic (no soap opera here). The characters were realistic and likely but the fact that their were five of them prevented the true connection. As a family the Golds were great but overall the lack of connection sort of dragged down the overall grade.
Final Grade: B-
I would not hesitate to recommend Leaves by Michael Baron. In fact, I think I would not have a problem with reading other books by him in the future. At the end of the book Baron mentioned writing follow-ups or sequels for Leaves, featuring some of the characters and what happens to them. I probably wouldn't read it because I felt that the story had a prefect ending, loose strings and all.
Disclaimer: I reviewed a free copy of Leaves by Michael Baron in exchange for an honest review in connection with Providence Book Promotions. All opinions stated above are my own.