“Long Division, by Sara B. Fraser, is an in-depth, introspective look into the lives of her three main characters, representing three generations of a dysfunctional family. Readers will relate to the subtle family dynamics as each character’s backstory comes alive and intertwines. Fraser narrates a world that encompasses both the cultivated and the corrupt. She interjects into the story the full range of human folly and misery – divorce, illness, alcoholism, betrayal, jealousy, and more. She doesn’t shy away from portraying her characters at their lowest ebb, as they recognize that time has been lost and that beauty and even the meaning of so much of what they once pursued has irretrievably faded away.
“Gertrude is a 94-year-old grandmother confined to bed in a nursing home. She is conscious of her surroundings, and her interest in people is apparent as she tries to interact with the staff. Her lack of close family keeps her in a state of living in the past. She loves most of the memories. She remembers how her little daughter made the shape of a church steeple with her hands. She “weaves bony fingers into a steeple. Opens the door, there are the people” with osteoporosis and arthritis to keep them from wiggling. Reminiscing, she relives many of her mistakes as a young woman and wonders what she could have done differently. Could she have changed the fates of her daughter and granddaughter if she had taken a different path?
“Leigh, Gertrude’s 30 something granddaughter, struggles with her own memories. Memories of a distant, alcoholic mother, abuse, and abandonment. She grapples with her immature ability to be true to herself, to take necessary actions, and to face mature decisions. She is engaged to a self-centered man who she has allowed to take over her life. Can her struggles with the meaning of love and family enable her to overcome the destructive patterns in her life?
“Beverly is the almost silent estranged catalyst in the middle. Gertrude’s daughter and Leigh’s mother, Beverly’s self -destructive lifestyle, seems to be a poison that affects both grandmother and daughter.
“Narrated alternately through the voices of Gertrude, Beverly, and Leigh with appropriate flashbacks, the reader is drawn into the complex storyline. Each character is distinctive and relatable. The reader will sympathize with each woman as the consequences of their immature decisions shape their future.
“Fraser’s ability to bring a character to life is evident in her description of Clive as he lay dying. His face was “sunken like someone had wrapped it in Saran wrap and pulled.” She also has embedded bits of wisdom as to when she writes that “jealousy is supposed to work like hypochondria.” Imagining the worst-case scenario as a way to prevent it from happening.
“Readers will long remember the trials of all three women and how Leigh was able to forgive her past and to forgive the mistakes of others.
“Fraser fuses and transmutes the lives of her characters so that there is significance in their existence. Long Division is narrated in beautifully told interweaving storylines, where the past and present come together in a nuanced, heartfelt drama about everyday people living everyday lives.” Reviewed by: Carole W
Long Division recently received a five-star rating from Indie Reader. “LONG DIVISION is a novel whose fluid narration and rich imagery carries a story that is deeply personal to its characters but universal in its themes.” Click to read the full review. https://indiereader.com/book_review/long-division/
A family’s dysfunctional history is revealed as a grandmother keeps a close eye on her nursing home and a granddaughter prepares for a marriage she is unsure about.
This debut novel blends the stories of Gertrude Littlefield, 94 years old and resident of a Lynn, Massachusetts, nursing home, and her granddaughter Leigh Fortune. Gertrude keeps a close eye on the other residents of her nursing home—and particularly on the growing flirtation between two of the staff members—while a series of flashbacks tells the story of her marriage to Clive and their separation before the birth of their daughter, Beverly. Leigh, Beverly’s daughter, is an accountant engaged to Mark, a man she gradually realizes is not right for her. When she checks Gertrude’s mail, Leigh learns that Beverly, an alcoholic who abandoned her children with Gertrude decades earlier, has just died, and as the reader sees how things repeat themselves from one generation to the next, Leigh slowly makes sense of how her relationships with both Gertrude and Beverly (“My experience of my mother was that she never knew the date, never mind bothering to put it on a letter”) have left her immature and also self-sabotaging, not yet ready to be part of a stable marriage. By the time the characters gather for Gertrude’s funeral in the book’s final pages, Leigh has connected with Beverly’s friend Simon, who shares stories about a sober, grounded woman very different from the irresponsible alcoholic Leigh knew. Simon’s undemanding friendship and Beverly’s personal growth give Leigh space to develop her own maturity. The novel is both quiet, focused on domestic moments and small details, and melodramatic, full of infidelity (“From not cheating to cheating feels like the tiniest little step, practically unavoidable”), bad parenting, and strong emotions. Fraser has an excellent sense of place, and her Cape Cod and North Shore settings are alive with detail. While readers may feel that some plot points are too clearly foreshadowed, the book’s events on the whole come together to form a coherent, engaging story with a satisfying resolution.
A troubled woman makes peace with her family in this well-written and introspective novel.