4 out of 4 stars
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Long Division by Sara B. Fraser is a book about three women, inextricably bound, not just by blood, but by threads of shared tragedies, life-choices, and dark secrets. The book centers around Leigh, a 30-something accountant, and her 94-year-old grandmother who lives in a senior center. Although Leigh is engaged to be married, the thought of marriage petrifies her. She worries about her ability to be a wife and mother, mainly because of her difficult childhood and her rocky relationship with her mother, Beverly. Gertrude, the grandmother, is a much more self-confident woman. Forced to raise Leigh and her brother by herself when their mother abandoned them, Gertrude rose to the challenge, becoming a much better role-model for Leigh. However, when Leigh finds out that Beverly has passed away, a flood of memories begin to resurface, leading Leigh on a search for the truth about her mother's past.
Long Division is a story of personal growth and confronting one's ghosts. The characters of Leigh and Gertrude are well developed. Gertrude's personality, especially, is amusing and, at times, hilarious. You can almost picture the sprightly 94-year-old flirting with young male attendants and keeping abreast of all the goings-on at the nursing home. Although Leigh is the protagonist of the story, my favorite character in the book was definitely the indomitable Gertrude.
The story goes back and forth from the past to the present, from Leigh's viewpoint to Gertrude's memories, and spans three generations. My only complaint was that the sudden changes from past to present and from Leigh's story to Gertrude's or Beverly's stories were confusing at times. I needed to reread a few sections to figure out the timeline of certain events.
Long Division deals head-on with issues like abuse, alcoholism, and statutory rape. However, at its very core, this is a book about human understanding. It's a book about recognizing that human beings, even those who are parents, are flawed individuals who don't always make the right choices. This cycle of bad choices can continue from generation to generation until the root of the issues is confronted, dealt with, forgiven, and moved past. Ultimately it is a book about accepting that the past can only control the future as long as you let it. At any point in a person's life, they can choose a different, better path.
Overall, Long Division is an engaging, enjoyable book. The characters have interesting personalities and you find yourself rooting for them. The book appears to be professionally edited. It contains some sex and profanity but it is in context and would be suitable for older teenagers. I rate it 4 out of 4 stars.
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