Those We Love Most by Lee Woodruff is the story of how James’ family is affected by his sudden and untimely death. Maura, his mother, is overwhelmed with both grief and guilt, having been distracted by a text that was sent to her by her lover. Pete, his father, drowns his sorrows at the bar. Maura’s father Roger feels guilty about carrying on his own affair, which is made more difficult with the frustrations that accompany old age. Margaret, Maura’s mother, is trying to be strong, not allowing her emotions to waver even the slightest.
Woodruff’s novel is one about characters, and the thoughtfulness that was put into each character leads me to assume that readers will inevitably find themselves identifying with one of them. I found myself immediately identifying with Margaret. Woodruff, herself having had to cope with family tragedy, has an amazing insight into the psyche of her characters. I found the incidences of human interaction, especially between husband and wife, to be right on point.
One of the elements of Woodruff’s writing that I enjoyed the most was her narration of the story as it alternates between the different characters’ perspectives. It’s a wonderful way of allowing the reader to be involved in the entire family’s experiences, not just Maura’s. It reinforces the idea that tragedy never strikes just one person; this thing has happened to the family, and not simply to Maura.
If you are struggling with something in your own life, I really do recommend this book. Although I found it very sad, at the same time it is very uplifting. It simultaneously reminds us of how vulnerable we are, but that we can survive almost anything if we want to. It is a very thoughtful book, and I imagine Woodruff probably shed a couple of tears while writing it. Nonetheless, Woodruff did a wonderful job of capturing the human spirit.