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Thoughts on Better Together by Raymond Rose

April 26, 2011

Better Together by Raymond Rose

Better Together by Raymond Rose is an emotionally charged story about raising a child as a single father.  I will admit this is not the type of book that I would initially pull off the shelves, but I am very glad I read it.  The novel is a contemporary fiction book so it is written in a very modern style, but despite that Rose is able to draw you into the world of Paul and his son Max.

The story is about a writer who is left raising his wife’s son after she is killed in a car accident.  The protagonist, Paul, is left with the immense task of taking care of a child that isn’t his own and dealing with the grief of losing the love of his life.  The book’s central themes are those of coping with grief, moving on from loss, and raising a child.  It is a well written short novel.

Rose has a wonderful way with creating everlasting images through his descriptions.  His writing is full of details that allow you to truly sense the world he has created.  My one complaint was an excessive use of metaphors, but at the same time his metaphors were often creative and did provide an insight into the story.  Some of the scenes were so cleverly written that they made me laugh out loud while reading.  One such occurs while Paul is shopping for the first time with the baby:

“However about halfway through his shopping, he was realizing that shopping ‘on the fly’ with a baby wasn’t a good idea.  Actually, it was a pretty stupid-ass idea.  He had a mental list of things that he’d forgotten so far in the aisles he’d already gone through.  And Max was trying to put a package of uncooked chicken tenders in his mouth.  Paul grabbed it from his hands, which sent the boy into a screaming fit as he told Paul in a language that Paul, thankfully, didn’t understand what he could do with that package of uncooked chicken and what he really thought of Paul’s mother.”

The characters in the story were also well developed and it was easy to be emotionally attached to each and everyone of them.  This is what made the book an immense success in my mind.  I was so connected with the protagonist that when things were hard for him in the book I felt tears forming in my eyes and when things were going well I found a smile on my face.  Not all books are successful in this fashion and I don’t find myself tearing up very often in a book, but Better Together had me tearing up in several places.  This book is an emotional roller coaster and the great affection that the reader feels for the characters makes it easy for one to find themselves laughing and crying while reading.

One of the most fascinating parts of the book to me was the controversy the character found himself in in being a single father.  Rose delved into the many issues faced by single parents, but he made a specific point of discussing the difficulties a single father faces in a world where women are still considered the ones best suited to rear children.  I found his insight and discussions on this refreshing.   After reading several feminist books lately, it was interesting to see a perspective of the issues a man encounters when raising children and the stigma that our society places on men as well as women when it comes to child rearing.  A great scene from the book discusses his difficulties in trying to meet with a play group as a father.

“Paul jumped all over that like a fallen lamb in a wolf’s den.  ‘You tell me Max needs a new mommy because his died yet your kids don’t need a new daddy.  That’s a bit of a double standard, don’t you think?’  Francine chimed in for her crazy friend. ‘No.  Because women can raise children.  Men can’t.’  And ther it was.  Sexism is a two way street, you know.”

“Francine leapt in adding […] ‘A woman without a child is a mistake in society’s eyes.  So by choosing to raise that child on your own, you are denying some woman her chance to do what she was born to do but maybe couldn’t.”

Overall Better Together is a great short novel.  It took me only a day to read, so it is definitely worth the short amount of time to read and its emotionally charged writing makes it a wonderful book to spend time with.

I received this book from the author to review.  It is available in eBook format from Christopher Williams Books, www.cwbooks.net. For a free preview of the first two chapters of the book and further information on purchasing the books please visit http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/54667.

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