four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
31-Nov-Dec-2007
user_rating: 
0

A-The Rest of Her LifeKara, a model high school senior, accidentally kills a classmate while driving and talking on a cellphone. Her mother, Leigh, a reserved and awkward English teacher, tries to comfort Kara, but their relationship is already strained—partly because of Leigh’s own dysfunctional childhood. Leigh is also perplexed by her younger son, whose only friends reside in a nursing home, and by her relationship with her husband, a professor at a local college. As the accident reverberates through her small Kansas community, Leigh struggles with emotions unleashed by her daughter’s momentary inattention—and the lasting repercussions.
Hyperion. 320 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 1401302718

Dallas Morning News 4 of 5 Stars
"[Ms. Moriarty shows] very human reactions with unusual sensitivity. … While sometimes predictable, the novel is not without surprises." Anne Morris

Entertainment Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"Jodi Picoult lovers, listen up! Here, finally, is someone as good as she is, someone who can mix the commercial and highbrow with ease. … Though Laura Moriarty draws The Rest of Her Life’s dilemmas out with real skill, she’s made one mistake: Leigh herself is too wooden, too restrained." Tina Jordan

Portland Tribune 4 of 5 Stars
"The Rest of Her Life is an unsentimental, complex look at how one family deals with a life-changing tragedy. …What makes this book a cut above the usual manipulative, watch-me-suffer genre is the care Moriarty gives to presenting all sides of the story." Ellison G. Weist

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"[Moriarty] takes care to portray Leigh in a variety of mute, unflattering postures in the aftermath of Kara’s catastrophic error, whose effects the author records with stout precision. … While it might seem impossible for a reader to find any tender connection with this protagonist, Moriarty manages subtly to build a case for compassion for all her characters, and especially for Leigh." Donna Rifkind

Providence Journal 3 of 5 Stars
"As much as I longed to better understand Leigh and her inability to connect to friends, co-workers, her husband and children, I never quite did. … [But she] ultimately reminds us of how much our pasts affect our presents, how blurred our intentions and our actions can become, and how none of us can be certain what we would do if our own seemingly safe lives turned upside down." Ann Hood

USA Today 3 of 5 Stars
"Moriarty paints a solid picture of a family in crisis trying to survive the unthinkable, but her narrative fizzles out at the end. … Kara simply comes off as too good to be true—a mature, considerate, selfless high school senior who seems to exist only in 7th Heaven reruns." Donna Freydkin

Critical Summary

Laura Moriarty’s first novel, The Center of Everything ( 3.5 of 5 Stars Sept/Oct 2003), explored a difficult mother-daughter relationship through the eyes of a sympathetic child narrator. In The Rest of Her Life Moriarty takes a different tack: although the mother-child relationship still takes center stage, it is the less-than-perfect mother who narrates the story. Most critics praised Moriarty for her sensitive and realistic portrayal of a parent struggling with her child’s transgression; however, a few reviewers found Kara one-dimensional and too perfect, and Leigh difficult to relate to. Despite these criticisms, The Rest of Her Life asks important questions about how singular actions—and the weight of the past—alter family dynamics.