Winds Of Change – Mary Metcalfe
Reviewed By Sheri de Grom
The characters in Winds of Change are confident and engaging yet vulnerable with frailties. I identified with Mary Metcalfe’s individual personalities. I wanted to protect them and let them know everything would be okay. I was sure of it.
The novel opens as Jennifer Barret rushes to her father’s room at Brentwood Manor. She hadn’t wanted to place him at the manor but she could no longer keep him safe at home. Her father Art Severn—once a gentle bear of a man—now has Alzheimer’s and gets frustrated easily.
On this particular day, Jennifer has been called as her father refused to use his walker. As a result, he tripped and sprained his wrist trying to break his fall. The doctor at the manor restricts Art to a wheelchair and Jennifer longs for the father she used to have. Her healthy father who: gardened with gusto, participated in regular golf games, and was ready for a new adventure at a moments notice. Now, her father rarely knows who she is.
Jennifer is a case worker who lives in the home where she grew up. Her husband and daughter were killed in a plane crash while they were visiting potential colleges for their daughter. After the deaths, Jennifer couldn’t stand to live where ever space reminded her of the happy life she’d once shared with her husband and child. Her parents had taken her into their home and kept her safe until she felt ready to enter the world again.
In the meantime, her mother passed away and she stayed on to keep her father company. She sold her own home and found solace in her father’s company. But it’s clear now that her father is gone mentally and indications are that the Alzheimer’s is making physical demands on his body as well.
Enter Mark Powell, Jennifer’s new client. Mark’s mental health doctor believes he’s ready to return to work after a bout of serious depression and his battle with anxiety. He’d been his mother’s primary caregiver as she’d battled cancer and lost. Mark was devastated.
Mark tells Jennifer, . . . [My main priority right now is to find a real job, which is not easy when you have a major gap on your resume and have worked only part-time and short-term jobs. Mostly, I don’t even get an interview.] . . .
Mark’s mother was a famous concert pianist and teacher. His father had been primarily absent in his life and is the famous national news reporter, Ben Powell. Ben is on a return trip from Afghanistan.
Jennifer calls a friend who’s the executive director at Brentwood Manor where her father is a patient. She remembers hearing the manor’s head gardener for the ten-acre estate had to retire and they hadn’t found a replacement. Brentwood can’t afford a professional landscaper.
Mark gets the job later that day. He loves the outdoors and has had some landscape experience.
We meet Ben Powell as he arrives in Boston. He’s concerned it’s been four years since he’s seen Mark, his only child.
Ben’s tired. He shoves a weary hand through his shock of silver hair . . . [At least people are leaving me alone today, he thought as yet another passenger did a double take when she recognized the tall, lanky journalist. With his face almost a nightly fixture in millions of homes, bars and airport waiting areas, Ben was at the top of his game. His news feeds and investigative reports on war and conflict were picked up by networks around the world.] . . .
Ben knows it’s time for him to hang up his cameras. He’s facing PTSD. He’s out of sorts from jet lag but he hasn’t seen his son since his ex-wife’s memorial four years earlier. He has to admit, he hasn’t been much of a father. It was easier to chase the latest hot story than to bond with a son who needed him more than ever. Is it now going to be too late?
. . . [Coming off the elevator he immediately spotted a younger version of himself coming through the doors. Whether it was fatigue or the lengthy separation or just his aging self, he suddenly choked up at the sight of his son—his own flesh and blood—walking towards him looking happy yet apprehensive. He hadn’t known what to expect after all this time and was gratified by what he saw.] . . .
Lana, a young single mother with a four-year-old son, also works at Brentwood Manor. She and Mark hit it off immediately. As Lana and Mark become friends, Danny—Lana’s four-year-old—provides another reason for Mark to spend time at their home. It seems a perfect instant family. Lana is also a widow. Lana and Mark have feelings for each other but are afraid to say the words.
Mark’s depression and anxiety lift as he renews his passion of working in the soil, communicating on a regular basis with management and vendors, executing successful plans, reuniting with his family, and getting to know Lana and her son. His days fall into a routine and that’s a welcome relief to his previous mental health issues.
Meanwhile, his father—the world-renowned news caster—is having his own problems. Ben hasn’t signed a new contract with the news agency he’s been with for thirty years. He can’t bring himself to recommit. He doesn’t want to return to the war zone. He wants to reconnect with his son.
. . . [As Ben put the phone down, he realized he was drenched in sweat. His hands are shaking uncontrollably. Despite the warmth of the room he was shivering. Take slow deep breaths. Focus on where you are right now. You are in a safe place now. He looked around the room in somewhat of a daze.
He could feel his heart pounding in his chest and took in deep calming breaths through his nose. Whoa. Hyperventilating or what. Haven’t had anxiety attacks like that in over a month, he realized. He shook his head. Guess my war isn’t over yet.] . . .
The day arrives when Lana, Jennifer, Danny, Mark, and Ben all meet. It’s a casual walk in the park and not a set-up as we often find in novels. But, this is the jumping off point where we have our core cast of characters for the remainder of the novel.
Mary Metcalfe moves her cast of characters through real life ups and downs. We all know the anguish of trying to decide if we should stay at the bedside of someone we love or can we afford to be gone for a few days. If that person slips away, will we be able to forgive ourselves?
The heartache of knowing that maybe we could have done more to help someone plays out in Ben and Mark’s relationship. Yet, like Ben, we have so many of our own issues we couldn’t help anyone else, not when we couldn’t help ourselves.
Is Lana overly protective of Danny, a child who has lost his father at such a young age? Can a ten-minute not-quite-relaxing bath really hold Lana together so the rest of her day can be devoted to young Danny and earning a living?
Jennifer becomes caught up in thinking her parents’ home and yard is just too much for one person to handle. Why hang on to all the space? Perhaps she should give it up and move into a chrome and steel high-rise condo overlooking Boston Harbor. But is she ready for this transition?
Winds of Change is set in Boston and Mary Metcalfe makes use of the beautiful sights and sounds plus many of the yummy tastes of the area. I feel the salt water, sun, and breezes as the characters spend a long weekend sailing. The lap of the water that soothes them to sleep on their sailing vessel and being in close quarters is the ultimate reality for possible intimacy.
I’ve watched as more and more agents are looking for manuscripts set in small towns. Boston isn’t a small town by any stretch of the imagination. However, the environment and relationships Mary Metcalfe builds in Winds Of Change would fit perfectly in that setting. Not only is Winds of Change an excellent read, but it’s also an excellent resource to study if you’re in the market to write series small town community women’s fiction books.
I recommend Winds of Change without reservation and look forward to its anticipated sequel, New Beginnings.
The video trailer for Winds of Change is http://bit.ly/QC3LYw.