Review: Between Midnight and Morning by Beverly Mitchell Dodd

★★★★½ between midnight and morning

Between Midnight and Morning, by Beverly Mitchell Dodd, is a hard-hitting women’s fiction novel that explores the dichotomy between personal freedom and family obligations and traditions.

When Lena turns eighteen, she leaves her home, her father and sister, and their church and religious beliefs. In her new life she meets Cos, she marries young, and has her son, Nathan, soon after. However, she can’t escape her painful past. Years pass and then something terrible happens. Lena and Nathan move back home, and she feels trapped in the past and present. Will she be able to pull herself out of her funk and see the light?

This is not an easy book to read. The writing is raw, honest, and stripped of sentimentality. And it may hit home with many readers. The author isn’t afraid to show the grim reality of life: that not everything works out according to plan. Even though Lena experiences two tragedies, it’s not just these tragedies that send her spiraling into darkness. It’s life.  She’s being pulled in so many directions. Her family expects her to act a certain way. So does her son. So do the men in her life. Also, her community is quite religious as is her family. Lena is always questioning when those around her expect her to accept everything with blind faith. And on top of that she has to contend with everyday life: bills, job, grocery shopping, and all the other mundane details that are difficult to do when you don’t even have the energy to get out of bed. Life alone is enough to drive anyone mad, and when you add two tragedies, it can seem impossible.

While this is a difficult read, it’s also well worth reading. It puts life in perspective. Many will probably relate to Lena on some level. She’s not the easiest character to like and the author does an excellent job of showing all sides of Lena. At times you feel for her. Then angry. Soon frustration sets in. All of these feelings repeat over and over. Humans are flawed.

Flawed characters in novels add realism, and they make for wonderful character studies. While not a lot of action happens in this novel, it’s never dull. Dodd’s writing pulls the reader into Lena’s mind and at times it can be terrifying. Her thoughts, memories, and ideas are always jumbled, making for a jarring read until you settle into the style. Once you get into the rhythm, it not only makes sense, but helps you understand the main character even more. She’s floundering. While you may not always understand Lena or are frustrated by her, you can’t stop hoping she’ll pull it together. The author taunts the reader with this hope. Lena takes a step forward, and then five back. Strangely, though, the hope never subsides.

Even though this isn’t the coziest of novels, it doesn’t seem overly dark. Lena is the type of character that leaves an impression and you may wonder well after finishing, how she’s doing. That’s a sign of good storytelling.

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