Twenty-two-year-old Linda Wise escapes her overprotective parents and hometown where everyone knows of the sexual assault she survived as a teenager, by marrying the charismatic Ron Brunson, a newly ordained Methodist minister who catches her eye with his passion for social justice. Set in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the story alternates between the early days of their relationship, when Lin moves with him to a church in Minnesota, to a few years hence when Lin takes their son Tavis to an apartment in Hopkins, west of Minneapolis. Though they live apart, they are still clearly together, and the first thing Lin does upon arrival is check on the emergency kit Ron has packed and use a payphone to let him know they’re safe.
I really, really wanted to like Becoming Lin. The summary touched on many topics I like to read about — a woman coming into her own, major political events in history such as the Freedom Riders for civil rights, the fight for women’s rights and the challenge to traditional expectations around marriage. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t the book for me. I read about a third of the way through, and flipped forward to several chapters at random to see if it captured my interest any better later on, but ultimately decided not to continue reading.
That being said, there were a couple of gems in the early pages. In particular, I love Lin and Ron’s early flirtation. At a church buffet, someone brings up the subject of Ron needing a wife for a better chance at a church appointment. Someone else suggests that a wife could also help with typing church bulletins and
Mr. Sloan laughs. “You should put a Wife Wanted ad in the paper.”
“I type. I can do the bulletins,” Linda says and the table goes quiet. She’s always had terrible timing. [p. 21]
Her timing may be terrible for social niceties, but it was such a perfect, snappy response to the conversation and a not-so-subtle hint at her suitability for the role of wife that I wanted to cheer out loud.
I also like that Lin is a plus size woman, “more curvy than jiggly” though many in her hometown still think of her as weighing over two hundred pounds. I’m always for more plus size heroines in fiction, and from what I’ve read, she seems to grow out of her shyness at some point in the story.
The main reason that I ended up not enjoying the story as much as I expected to is that it’s just really slow. The story flips from one point in time in Lin’s story to the other without clear time markers, which was confusing and disorienting at first. For example, I went from reading about Lin and Ron’s flirtation to Lin taking her son and leaving Ron for some unnamed reason within the space of two chapters, then back to Lin’s father talking to her on her wedding day in Chapter 3. The “present day” sections were especially boring to me, and I found the detailing of the minutiae of Lin building a new life (settling into her new apartment, finding a job, etc) tedious. I didn’t know enough of the character at that point nor of the circumstances under which she left her husband to care much about what she did, and having to flip back every other chapter to the time when the couple began their life together was an unwelcome distraction.
It’s possible that the story picks up later on, but I think I’ve read enough to know that the story and the author’s style just aren’t working for me. I should point out that based on Goodreads and online reviews, my opinion is in the minority and many other readers thoroughly enjoyed the story. So if you enjoy meditative literary fiction about a woman coming of age as a wife and mother, do check out some of the other reviews and decide for yourself if it’s worth a go. The author has also written an earlier novel Stony River, about Lin’s teenage years, so if you’ve read and enjoyed that one, you’ll likely enjoy reading more of Lin’s story. But I’m afraid I’ll pass on finishing this one.
Thank you to Caitlin Press for an advance reading copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Even while I was reading it, I was aware that not much was happening and that it would not suit every reader but, for me, it was hard to slow myself down in this one. It reminded me of reading Marilyn French’s The Women’s Room and Marge Piercy’s Small Changes, which you should probably also strike from your reading list! *grin* They’re long and slow novels about women negotiating changing identities and shifting boundaries, in marriage and otherwise, too. Thanks for mentioning the link with Stony River. I wondered about the link between the works!
Thanks for giving it a go, Jaclyn. That’s all any author can ask.