I think a lot of the time, books romanticise being orphans or having unsuitable parents. This happens mostly, I find, in fantasy books, but it is very common in other genres as well. The reason for this, I think, is that it gets parents out of the way when all we want to do is focus on the main character; it also gives the protagonist a reason to struggle and strive and adds a level of relatability to them. So when I read Rebecca Marsh’s When the Storm Ends and saw the reality of such situations, from all angles, I was pleased that this issue and situation was being addressed in such a profound manner, and also one that reflected reality.
1. Thoughts on the plot
This book contained a story within a story that was meant to help the main character, Beth, a child psychologist and someone who went through the foster care system help a young girl, Erin. The story follows Beth as she tries to get Erin to talk with her after having killed her own father. Beth needs to relate her own past to try and understand Erin, and to get Erin to open up and realise that there is good in the world, too.
I won’t go into a great amount of detail, for fear of spoiling the books, but I will say that I really liked the framework that this novel set up. Following Beth on her journey to help Erin while also seeing the development of her childhood was very insightful and created a very vivid picture of the characters in both the story Beth was telling and the situation with Erin. The ending really cemented the positive pieces in the dark while simultaneously still feeling real and relatable.
2. Thoughts on the characters
Now, I liked both Beth and Erin. I think they were the most real of the characters in this book, partly because we spent the most time on them, but also because they have the widest emotional range. I think their experiences are a big help in that extra push towards feeling real, jumping off the page and resonating with readers.
As for the other characters, mostly they seem to serve important plot points, which is perfectly fine, but they do not feel as real as Beth and Erin. The characters that appear in Beth’s childhood are perhaps the closest to deep and realistic characters, but the ones in adulthood, in Beth’s life after she comes through her struggles, feel a little flat. I think this comes partly because they represent a more stable, happier part of Beth’s life rather than the tumult of her childhood, and therefore display a smaller range of emotions.
3. Favourite part
I think the story within the story, the inner framework, of this book is probably my favourite. It mirrors what’s happening in the other parts of the book, and lends it a certain emotional depth that drives home the point of the story, the hope at the end of the storm.
If I have a critique for this novel, it is to do with the prose. The story and the characters feel very real, but that is negated slightly by the prose. It is structurally sound, there are no grammatical issues, but the story depends a great deal on narrative description rather than character action and interaction. It’s not a major thing, just enough to pull me out of the story and remind me that I am reading a book.
Overall, I think When the Storm Ends is another lovely display of Rebecca Marsh’s ability to take the muddy waters of real life and craft it in such a way that it is insightful and still reflective of reality. This book is a good psychological drama that ends in hope, and I enjoyed it a fair bit.