Our final critique for First Impressions in July is Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade, a novel by Susan Swiderski.
Pearl Bryzinski emerged from her house, sniffed the air, and stretched. Dark clouds bulged overhead, poised to dump yet another load of wintry delight, but she didn’t notice. For the first time in weeks, tentative spears of grass peeked through the snow, so sunny thoughts of springtime bloomed rampant in her head. When she started her car, she was singing about summer.
She tapped the steering wheel and sang in sync with the cheerful chick-chick-chick of her snow chains, and smiled as she drove past a red mitten lying in the gray slush beside the road. It reminded her of the time her father took her to an art show. Every painting was done in shades of Payne’s gray, with a single splash of red: a cardinal in a snowstorm, a rose atop a coffin, a pair of lips in a crowded bus. She’d never forget those paintings, or that day. They even got a strawberry shake at Arundel’s. Best shakes in the world. Best father, too.
Still smiling, she turned onto Kinship Road. Her parents had lived here in the same sprawling house for the past seventy years, and even though Pearl hadn’t lived there for almost thirty-five, every visit felt like a homecoming.
Strange. An ugly brown Pinto was backing out of their driveway. She watched the unfamiliar car, and then, with a grin, rolled down her window as fast as she could, stuck her head out, and yelled, “DADDY!”
He kept staring straight ahead, but the woman behind the wheel glanced in her direction, so Pearl waved and yelled again. But while she was still hanging out the window, panting white breath into the cold January morning, the Pinto drove away. She watched until it drove out of sight, and then parked in the driveway behind her father’s Cadillac.
Uh oh. I think Pearl is in for an unpleasant surprise. I think I can see where this is going, and I cringe at the image of this poor, naively happy woman rolling down her window and waving energetically at “Daddy,” who seems to be departing the premises with “Another Woman.” The set up is quite clever. Just from this little bit, I get the idea that Pearl is a cheerful sort who dotes on her father and perhaps dwells on a romanticized version of her childhood.
A few notes: If it is January, would spring really be on the horizon? (What state is this? Slipping that in might help – because in my state, January is just the beginning of snowfall.)
Also, if Pearl’s parents have lived in that same house for 70 years, that must make them around 90, right? So, Pearl’s 90-year old father is running off with another woman? Or wait – have I misinterpreted this? Is he senile and being driven off by some kind of nurse? I hadn’t thought of that till now. Okay, maybe I don’t know where this is going after all!
The only other suggestion I would make is to clarify that Pearl sees her father in the passenger seat of the Pinto. I had to read those paragraphs twice to realize he was in the passenger seat staring ahead, and the woman (who glanced at Pearl) was driving.