True Placesby Sonja Yoerg Published 01 Jan 2019
|Publisher||Lake Union Publishing|
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A girl emerges from the woods, starved, ill, and alone…and collapses.
Suzanne Blakemore hurtles along the Blue Ridge Parkway, away from her overscheduled and completely normal life, and encounters the girl. As Suzanne rushes her to the hospital, she never imagines how the encounter will change her—a change she both fears and desperately needs.
Suzanne has the perfect house, a successful husband, and a thriving family. But beneath the veneer of an ideal life, her daughter is rebelling, her son is withdrawing, her husband is oblivious to it all, and Suzanne is increasingly unsure of her place in the world. After her discovery of the ethereal sixteen-year-old who has never experienced civilization, Suzanne is compelled to invite Iris into her family’s life and all its apparent privileges.
But Iris has an independence, a love of solitude, and a discomfort with materialism that contrasts with everything the Blakemores stand for—qualities that awaken in Suzanne first a fascination, then a longing. Now Suzanne can’t help but wonder: Is she destined to save Iris, or is Iris the one who will save her?
"True Places" Reviews
This book was wonderful!
Fog hung in the trees, a hush of silvery damp, but the girl could tell the sun would burn through before long and dry the grasses hunched under the weight of dew
The cabin stood in a small clearing, and the trees surrounding it had strained toward the heavens for a long time, long enough for the trunks to have become too thick for the girl to enclose them in the circle of her arms, long enough for anyone with decency to fall silent in reverence.
The fog had disappeared as surreptitiously as it has come. The sun was high and all the green in the world was rising toward it. She listened as she climbed, her skin and each of her senses bound together into solid awareness. Everything surrounds her, impinging on her, she felt and knew
One day Suzanne had enough; she had to get away from the family and her responsibilities for just a little while so she decided to just drive a little bit. She found a little girl next to the woods and took her to the hospital. This is where the story of Iris truly begins. What happened to her parents? Why did she live in the woods?
"People. People want to know things about you. People want you to follow rules. People put chemicals in the water, and ruin good food and hurt animals and waste things that are precious. People won't let you live a simple, good life." She faced him. " I don't need people, and I don't want them."
But life is going to take a different turn for Iris because Suzanne can't leave her alone in a world she knows nothing about.
Suzanne twisted to look across the treetops and roofs to the rolling hills and the mountains beyond. She imagined Iris wandering along the ridges, drinking from the streams, searching for food, sleeping on the forest floor, untethered and unaccountable to anyone but herself. Now Suzanne imagined not Iris but herself, alone in the woods. The thought made her heart beat faster, and for an instant she wasn't certain whether it was from fear or excitement.
I loved how this book had POV's for Suzanne, her husband, two kids and Iris. We get to find out little things about each of them.
I loved Suzanne's son, Reid. He was a big cool dude! I hated the daughter, Brynn until the end. And I didn't like the husband, Whit, on and off until the end as well. And I'm so glad this book had a happy ending for everyone. The book had my feel good ending!
She finished clearing the plants away and squatted on her heels with one hand on the top of the marker, listening. The wind sighed through the tops of the trees, shifting the pattern of light falling to the forest floor. A pair of dusky-blue butterflies, no bigger than her thumbnail, danced in a shifting column of light, then alighted, first one, then the other, on the damp ground, violet blue against brown, before twirling upward once more. Beyond the clearing, in the undergrowth, a bird kicked through the leaf litter. A towhee.
“The girl was not simply ill or lost; she was otherworldly.”
True Places is a beautifully written family drama that focuses on materialism and superficiality. A family is left in shambles after they take in a 15-year-old who has lived off the grid for her enter life, They must either learn to recognize what’s really important in life or lose each other.
Suzanne, a mother of two, is simply existing in her upper-class world in Charlottesville. It appears she has the perfect family--perfect husband, perfect children, and perfect marriage. She spends her time doing charity work and constantly taking care of her husband and children. But Suzanne is not living--paralyzed by fear from an event in her past, Suzanne has learned to avoid conflict. She is physically present, but she’s emotionally stilted. One day she takes a long drive for an escape, and she stumbles across Iris, a 15-year-old girl who has lived her entire life in the forest.
Without a mother or a home, Suzanne takes in Iris. Her family is resistant and Iris does not want to be a part of this new world full of excess and unnecessary things.
Iris’s appearance exposes the cracks in the perfect facade this family has been hiding behind.
Told from alternating chapters, the reader gets to experience the journey and transformation of each character.
I really enjoyed True Places. While the plot of a crumbling family is one that felt familiar, the plot surrounding Iris’s character was original. Iris’s character won’t be one I forget for a long time. While the writing was strong, I felt at times, that it was a bit overly preachy and could have used a little more subtlety as the message was pretty obvious. However, I was completely transported by Iris’s journey and loved the chapters told from her perspective. I was moved in the end and became emotionally connected to these characters. I would recommend to those who are looking for a family drama with a unique spin.
5 Lovely, Lyrical and Marvelous Stars!
There are times when there are no words. When you are writing a review and you know that you just can’t do an author’s novel justice. This is one of those times.
I was lucky enough to be offered an advanced copy of “True Places” from the author, Sonja Yoerg and of course, I jumped at the chance after having read her prior novel “All the Best People” last year as that book and those characters have stayed with me. The same can be said for “True Places.” There is a beauty in Sonja Yoerg’s words that transcends all else.
In “True Places” a young girl named Iris is found on the outskirts of the forest, alone, emaciated and deathly ill. She is brought to a nearby hospital by Suzanne, a pillar of the community. Suzanne is a wife and mother - her husband Whit, and her two children, Reid and Brynn couldn’t function without her. Suzanne is scared for the girl and immediately takes Iris under her wing and together they become a foster family. Iris, having lived on her own in the woods for so many years, does not fit in, not at Suzanne’s, not anywhere but the woods where she came from. When Suzanne took Iris in, she imagined that it would be her helping Iris, little does she realize, it’s Iris who helps her.
Who's to say what defines a person? Where you belong and what is right for you? In “True Places,” Sonja Yoerg expresses the ways in which people can be completely different from each other - yet still belong and have a place in this world. The place in which they feel the most comfortable: their “True Place.” Sometimes it’s obvious and sometimes it takes a bit of work to find.
What stood out for me after having now read two of Ms. Yoerg’s novels (besides the fact that I need every book she has ever written!) is the fact that she skillfully delves into to the heart of family dynamics, emotions and people in a way that a lot of authors simply cannot. Her words are beautiful, poetic and soulful.
In my opinion, this is a character driven novel, each character fulfilling a different role - everyone just as important as the other. This novel and these characters, especially Suzanne and Iris, are ones to cherish. If you have not read a novel by Ms. Yoerg, I can’t recommend her novels strongly enough.
A huge thank you to Sonja Yoerg, NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for a complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Published on Goodreads, NetGalley, Twitter and Instagram.
*Will be published on Amazon on release date.
4.5 stars rounded to 5 stars
What a beautiful story. I have now read all four of Ms. Yoerg’s books, and she never fails to deliver a well-written tale with significant depth.
This one focuses on Suzanne, a housewife and mother who is doing the best she can to keep her dysfunctional family rolling on. Her co-protagonist is Iris, a teenager who has lived her whole life in the Blue Ridge Mountains without ever experiencing a “modern” lifestyle. How these two come together and help each other handle their pasts and discover a better way of life is the crux of the story.
Having grown up near the foothills of the Smoky Mountains I loved the Blue Ridge Mountain area setting in Virginia. I believe this is home territory for the author. Her descriptions brought back those mountain sounds and smells to me. Gee I miss all the times I spent with my family in the mountains of the southeast Tennessee. I understand Ms. Yoerg is also an avid gardener and plant lover, and her knowledge of the flora of the mountains in her area is clearly demonstrated in True Places. Her descriptive imagery is lovely.
There is a lot going on in True Places, but Ms. Yoerg keeps us on track. There are issues between Suzanne and her parents, her husband, and her children despite her efforts to keep things moving as smoothly as possible. Each of her two children have problems, and poor Iris is having a hard time without her family and trying to assimilate into “the real world.” At one point I wondered how all of this could possibly be resolved. I liked the way the author brought things together at the end, though I wished the resolution had been drawn out a little more, hence the withholding of half a star.
I must commend the artist responsible for the cover and the author for a perfect title. Not only does the title sum up the story in two words, it is intriguing and original in this age of so many similar (and oh so tired) titles. My first impressions of a book are almost always based on the cover and the title, and this one hauled me in like a mega magnet.
I felt for the realistically drawn characters, especially Suzanne, Iris, and Reid. I was pleased Ms. Yoerg didn’t fluff things up with a “perfect”, and thus unrealistic, ending. I would love to visit this family again in ten years to see how things all worked out for them, but at the same time I’m glad the author elected not to have an epilogue. Despite it feeling a tad rushed, the denouement is satisfying just as it is.
What I liked most about this novel is that the story made me think. Have I made the most of my life? Am I in my own true place? I highly recommend True Places (and Ms. Yoerg’s other three books) to all readers of contemporary fiction. I await the author’s next offering with great anticipation.
Thank you, Ms. Yoerg, for gifting me an ARC of True Places. Opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way.
Driving along a parkway in Virginia, Suzanne Blakemore notices something on the side of the road. As she moves closer, she realizes that it is a young girl who is malnourished and in need of medical care. After admitting her at a nearby hospital, she finds out Iris is an orphan who has been struggling to survive in the woods.
Suzanne is informed that Iris will be placed in foster care if no relative can be located. Without consulting her family, she decides to bring Iris into her household. This has lasting ramifications since nobody else is happy with this decision. Tension starts to build with her husband and two teenage children where the environment had already been spiraling downward. Her husband has a successful career but seems more concerned with work than home. At the same time, her children are growing up and pushing for independence. The arrival of Iris seems like a good catalyst to improve some nagging mistakes from her past.
Sonja Yoerg’s novel provides insight into a woman trying to find her true place in the world. People change over time and it takes courage to start on a new path. True Places was an engaging view of complex family issues.
For starters: that cover! It spoke to me immediately. But what is beneath the beautiful artwork is equally delightful. While I have enjoyed all of Sonja Yoerg’s novels, this one has to be my favorite, with its juxtaposition of nature and affluent suburban living.
If you enjoy book club and upmarket women’s fiction in contemporary settings – and family drama, replete with difficult teens – this book is a must. The prose is assured and lovely, and where Yoerg shines the most, I think, is in her descriptions of the natural world.
The foothills tumbled gently down to the valley floor, an undulating expanse, farmland and wood, hazy through lingering mist, still and mute.
The colors harmonized within her, melting together like a lazy babble of a stream, the flutter of the wind in the trees, and the excited warble of a bunting.
The author’s adoration of the natural world (and subsequent background in biological psychology/animal behavior) as well as her belief in nature’s healing balm spills on to the pages through the characters of Suzanne and especially Iris, an exceptional teenager, whom I loved from the very first pages.
I was impressed by Yoerg’s ability to show us, through Iris’s eyes, how little sense traditional society might make to someone ‘new’ to it. From Iris:
People. People want to know things about you. People want you to follow rules. People put chemicals in the water, and ruin good food and hurt animals and waste things that are precious. People won’t let you live a simple, good life.” She faced him. “I don’t need people, and I don’t want them.”
This book spoke to me loudest in the questions its poses about materialism, overabundance in our society, and the remoteness so many have from the natural world today (as well as the devastating emotional consequences of that removal from outdoor exposure). And, in that sense, I found the character of Iris in this book, and the character of Kya in the recently published Where the Crawdads Sing, to have interesting parallels. While they’re markedly different books, they share thematic similarity regarding commune with nature, and subtle overtones that point out man’s sprawl and historic lack of thought in altering the natural terrain.
This book also includes botanical themes (I loved learning about Hydnora and herbalism), and even the name Iris has its own thematic ties – not only to botany, but also to Greek mythology. While the novel covers topics related to parenting and the busyness of today’s lifestyles, it also begs readers for introspection at their own choices.