Women's fiction author Joanne Rendell is back with a new book that alternates between historical and contemporary fiction as she tells the story of Clara, a modern woman who discovers a link between herself and 19th century author Mary Shelley.
Clara Fitzgerald's recent string of losses has left her feeling adrift. Between her mother's death, fiance's sky-rocketing career and emotional detachment, and her own stagnant career, Clara is lost. To ground herself, Clara decides to research her ancestry -- and finds she is related to the creator of Frankenstein.
It's then that Clara embarks on an illuminating journey. With her sister in tow, and with the help of Kay, a retired Shelley scholar, Clara begins to search for the author's long-lost journals and letters.
As a bond between the three women grows, and as the profound connection between the past and present deepens, Clara comes closer to realizing where her heart truly belongs.
Readers of Out of the Shadows are offered a glimpse into the life of the creator of Frankenstein, and a female author who was ahead of her time in both education and character. The alternating between historical and contemporary fiction as Rendell writes as both Mary Shelley and Clara, relating both women's lives, can sometimes be confusing. When the author focused on Clara and her self-discovery, the book was most enjoyable.
Out of the Shadows brings up some interesting themes like grief, love, and the advancement of science. Both women have lost their mothers and their struggles are paralleled, but are overcome in different ways. Multiple relationships, romantic and familial, are challenged and the women whose hearts are invested show their strength and commitment to achieving acceptance. An understated glimpse into the world of modern medicine and miracle drugs invites readers to question, "how much is too much?"
In the end, readers will feel a connection with Clara. Rendell does not sugar-coat Clara's struggles, but describes them in detail that many women can relate to. By no means a perfect ending, Out of the Shadows is a realistic novel whose characters' pasts help them realize their future.
Freelance journalist Selena Larson contributed to this story.
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