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Review: Upcountry

Family is precious and relationships often change throughout a person’s life. But, one constant is the bonds that unite one’s family. However, that is not always the case. Jane Schumacher’s family has not seen her for many years. HUD5C22NKA5D

Her perspective about family and past are about to take a drastic turn as I review Upcountry, by author R.M. Doyon.

Jane Schumacher’s life is about to change in many different directions and ways. As a press secretary for the Governor of New York, she is used to being in the limelight dealing with a highly charged political world.  Her boss is running for President and her job is to make him a marketable candidate.

But, as she is about to embark on this journey with him, life hands her a curve and things change for her. Receiving some life-changing news shortly before Thanksgiving, abruptly, Jane decides to return to her upstate New York hometown of Morgantown, and to her estranged family.

As she ponders her past and comes face-to-face with her present, she enters her sister’s home and a scene that will set in motion one event that will change her and her sister’s life. Spousal abuse is a behavior that engulfs and involves many symptoms.

Joanne, her sister, is married to Denny, a man who takes pleasure in degrading her in public and anyone in his wake. Threatening verbal and physical abuse on her and others, he justifies his actions in his mind and others. Soon after Jane arrives, Denny openly insults her in his attempt to inflate his own ego, thereby creating his own sense of control.

However, what happens as a result of Jane witnessing his actions towards her sister will surprise you. What Joanne does as a result of her Jane’s response will further surprise the reader as the two sisters, reunite and take a journey into the future together. One sister is freed from one set of chains and another must face her own.

Traveling together for the first time in many years, the sisters meet many people along the way including Matt Booker who owns and operates a motel, bar, and restaurant. Hiding from the police and not wanting to face what happened back in Morgantown, Jane and Joanne must decide what will happen next. Some will understand and others will drift farther apart because the stark reality sets in and the truth is told.

As Jane decides their next move, she calls an old beau, Brian Boychuk, the county sheriff back home, and explains certain facts to him hoping to draw him away from her sister yet not telling him the truth about what happened. Her father, cousins, and others are concerned about the outcome.  The sheriff wants to help but his hands are tied.

Sisters should have a special bond and relationship. They should be each other’s best friend. But Jane and Joanne parted company years before due to their mother’s attitude and treatment of Jane. Yet, they are in this together and hopefully, something positive will result. And Jane is harboring a secret of her own–one that she has kept to herself and to the exclusion of her lawyer boyfriend, Roberto.

The author brings to light the very serious issues linked to spousal abuse. Recounting the events in Joanne’s life you can hear the screams of pain inflicted on her and the verbal slurs and abuse carried out by her husband. Staying with him seemed like her only choice. Men like Denny Lowry need to have a sense of power and control over people. Joanne did not have the courage to leave, although at times she did stand up to his attacks. But physically she was no match.

But when you read about his fate, you need to decide who is the victim and who is guilty? Would you agree with what one of the characters did in order to free her sister from bondage and the abuse? What would you have done?

As Roberto tries to determine Jane’s motives for her action, Jane must decide what will happen next in her life and where she will wind up. Her sheriff friend is still searching for answers and although he knows the truth in his heart, he is having trouble dealing with it.

Throughout this novel, you hear many voices that enter the minds of both Jane and Joanne. If you listen carefully to Jane’s inner thoughts you will relive many of the difficult conversations she had with her mother, Donna, and learn the reasons behind her leaving home.

If you listen further, you will relive with Joanne the horrors that befell her living with an abusive husband, his words and his voice. Along with that, you will learn the many secrets that Jane kept from her family.

Sisters have a very close and special bond as I did with mine before she passed away this July. Reuniting with Joanne was Jane’s greatest gift to both of them as years of resentment are washed away–only to form a final bond that would remain forever. As Jane’s secrets are revealed and her fate is decided, Joanne is liberated and can now start anew once the final nightmare is over.

What these secrets are and who is involved you will have to read for yourself.

Jane, strong-willed, strong-minded, and was determined to shield her sister from so many truths. But as a result of her Thanksgiving trip home, we find that abuse rears its ugly head in so many ways.  This includes a father caught in a tangled web by a mean and controlling woman, while Joanne’s abuse was mental, physical and psychological. A domineering woman that did not know the true meaning of the word love controlled Hubie, her father. Jane, a victim of her mother’s narrow-mindedness and bias, and a family torn by lies decides it is time to reveal the secrets that kept them apart for too long.

There are many innocent victims of this crime that need to speak up and speak out. As Denny’s voice begins finally to fade from Joanne’s thoughts and mind, Jane’s voice can be heard as she reminds her of their love and final bond; a family learns the true meaning of loyalty, friendship, and love.

The circle of life has many curves and winding roads. Each bend on the never-ending circle holds many unique and exciting things in store for us. Some good and some bad will be revealed at each bend and hopefully, we all can learn to become stronger and wiser in order to deal with what comes next.

An ending that will bring tears to every reader’s eyes brings new meaning to the word survival. Author R.M. Doyon’s novel is one that everyone should read to be reminded of how precious life is and how short our tomorrows are before there are no more.

The ties that bind a family are fragile and yet strong. We need to always remember that and celebrate our love of family and our closeness whenever possible.

The empty space in our heart that is left behind
Within this world, we all know
Reminds us just how we must cherish each day
And how precious our time is before we go

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