Cathy Lamb’s debut novel is rich, dark, and intense, but there is much more. She escapes from her sadistic fiance, moves in with quirky, lovable Aunt Lydia, and makes new friends – the psychic, the minister’s wife who is nearly mad with responsibilities, the exhausted mother whose husband comes around from time to time.
Lamb includes the wonderful process which feminism unleashed – helping women to get to know, accept, and celebrate their body, so the Psychic Nights are a delightful addition. Everyone has serious problems, but they help one another, they fail, they try again. Julia, whose entire life was filled with abuse, neglect, panic episodes, will take love from wherever it appears, but she realizes that she has to start by knowing herself, and finding out who she is and how she can thrive, not merely survive.
The characters are beautifully developed – the minister’s wife is very realistic – trust me! – and you find yourself routing for each woman as she learns to trust, to share, to find a home. I loved this novel, strongly recommend it, and urge readers to look deeply at the effects of our culture on how we perceive ourselves.