Anyone who listens to the Cocktail Hour podcast that I co-host knows that I’ve got a little crush on Georgia Beers. It’s ok that I put that out publicly because my wonderful wife knows and is ok with it. That’s not to say that I’ve loved all of Ms. Beers’ books, because I haven’t. I’ve enjoyed all but one to varying degrees but I don’t let my fangirl crush blind my critical eye when it comes to reading her work.
Of all of Beers’ books, my favorite, like many other of her fans, is Starting From Scratch. I think I may have set myself up for heartache because I read that one first and then moved on through the rest of her stuff which, while mostly very good, didn’t quite measure up for me. I was desperate for something new by her when 96 Hours was published, so I bought it right away. And continued to pass it by every time I was ready to start a new book. How would the terrorist attack be handled? Would there be political overtones? Will she use the situation to play at my heartstrings in a blatantly manipulative way? I just wasn’t ready to read it and I didn’t want a short book to change my good feelings about the author so I put it off until yesterday.
In a nutshell, 96 Hours tells the story of what happened when 39 planes were grounded in a tiny Newfoundland community on September 11, 2001 when American air space was closed. In that short period of time, close relationships were created and lives changed forever. The generosity of the residents of Gander truly amazed the Plane People and, to be honest, amazed me, too. I love that the author based the story on actual events and the actual place. I got misty a few times due to the generosity of Corrine and Tim McDougal and the entire community of Gander. It made me want to be a better person.
I found that, while I did get choked up several times, I didn’t feel bad about it. I didn’t feel like I was having my heartstrings yanked on in a very obvious manner. I remembered my own experiences, as one would expect, and how the world has changed since that time. But, mostly, I felt a connection to Abby and Erica and a few other characters as they dealt with uncertainty, discomfort, and discovering the closeness that comes from living through such stressful, difficult times. I won’t give anything away here but I will say that I was pleased that the book didn’t always play out the way I expected. I love that.
I know that there are others out there who have put off reading this book for the same reasons I have. September 11th changed our world and many of those changes are still very obvious today – politically and personally – and many of us are just not quite ready to mix our romance novels with the harsh reality of that heartbreaking time in our history. 96 Hours, I think, handles the tragedy and the hopefulness it brought well and I enjoyed the journey that the characters went on. The book is well written and has romance and humor and difficult emotions. Oh, and two really hot women who have sex.
So, if you’re a Georgia Beers fan, stop putting it off and read 96 Hours. I’m going to be rereading Starting From Scratch soon. I need to make sure that it’s still my favorite after 96 Hours. I think it’ll be close.