Monday, August 1, 2016

ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD by Caroline Angell

This remarkable debut is not only a riveting story filled with heartbreak and humor but it also gives readers much to ponder in their own lives. Caroline Angell’s voice is so honest, so truthful that one almost feels she has penned a memoir. All The Time In The World is an extraordinary book - what a debut!

We meet Charlotte, a young woman living in New York City who once dreamed of being a composer but has given that up after a teacher stole her composition. So to pay the rent she becomes a babysitter for a wealthy, loving Upper East Side family - the McLean’s. Scotty, Gretchen, and their two young sons, Matt and George. Charlotte finds her job distracting and rewarding while she tries to decide how to move forward after the betrayal that sent her off course.

Before long she finds herself totally absorbed in the daily lives of the McLean’s - planning birthday parties, pick-ups and drop-offs, play dates, bathing, feeding, naps, and joyfully hearing little George’s first words when some had feared he would never speak. Charlotte’s personal life goes by the wayside as when a grad school friend comes to her with good news, she chooses to work late rather than be with him.

Tragedy strikes when Gretchen is struck by a car on a gray, rainy day and dies. The scene in the hospital waiting room when relatives have gathered and the family hears the news is stunningly, heartbreakingly drawn. Suddenly Charlotte finds herself the boys’ primary care giver and the glue trying to keep this grieving family together, living a life she had never imagined - she moves into the McLean home to care for the boys and if at all possible assuage Scotty’s grief. She tries to do all of this under the watchful, sometimes judging eyes of friends and family. Scotty’s younger brother, Patrick, is a story in itself as we are privy to his responses to the tragedy and to Charlotte herself.

Angell has chosen to tell her story by moving backyard and forward in time beginning with the day before Gretchen’s death, then moving to two years before when Charlotte applies for the job, and so on. This reader found that somewhat distracting but it did not detract from the power of this complex story that is both heart-breaking and life affirming. I eagerly await the next from Caroline Angell.

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