One Moment One Morning
Author: Sarah Rayner
Reviewed by Fran Lewis
Observations can often be startling when what you see changes the course many lives. Starting her day in the usual manner, Lou enters one of the carriage cars of a train, sits down and begins taking note of those around her. One girl is trying to perfect her look using every makeup too she brought with her. Another couple sitting directly opposite from her and trying to be discreet in his actions, the husband using a slight gesture of affection when stroking his wife’s hand is quite touching. A third seems to her primary focus on a magazine filled with articles about fashion, gossip and tons of glossy pictures. Each person preoccupied with his/her own private thoughts when they are brought out of their own personal reverie when the unthinkable happens- a man collapses- falls over and a chain of events so fragile, so realistic and heartbreaking following reminding everyone that things can change in a flick of a second or as the title so aptly states: One Moment One Morning.
Anna is still transfixed on the articles and pictures in the magazine when they guard makes startling announcing stating that one passenger needs medical assistance in Carriage E. As several people run by her in a hurried state Anna wonders what caused the fuss and broke the usual silence and calm of her morning compute. The train is halted and that annoys her since she does not want to be late for work. Stopped before her scheduled departure stop she verbalizes to no one in particular that perhaps they should remove the person and let the train go in its way. Learning the reason behind the delay she rebukes herself for her inconsiderate thoughts but is still primarily concerned with getting to work on time.
Let’s return to Lou who is our narrator of events and whose observations will help the reader get a better inside view of the events at hand. Witnessing the event Lou observes the two nurses trying to resuscitate the man in question. Watching the events unfold, hoping to bring him back to life, time stops for many of these people and unfortunately the end result is tragic.
The guard rather than comprehend the events demands that everyone leave the carriage and the train. Passengers disembark to a dark sky filled with rain and quite cold. Buses are not available making transportation difficult. Some decide to go home but Anna cannot. A taxi pulls up and the driver offers to take her for a fee wherever she wants to go. Joining her on her journey will be our narrator Lou who agrees to share the fare with Anna and now our story truly begins as a result of a sad tragedy on a morning train ride.
Anna and Lou connect as they share a ride in a cab. Then, something happens and the connection becomes even deeper. Receiving a phone call from her best friend Karen brings a new perspective to her own urgency to get to work learning that Karen’s husband Simon was the man who died on the train. Forgetting her meeting, finding her way back to stay with her friend Anna proves that she is more than must superficial. But, Lou feels something else when she is with Anna and that relationship has yet to develop.
Anna is concerned about Karen and is going to the hospital to be with her and give her some support. As the reader learns more about the situation we get inside the inner thoughts and character traits of Lou who is dealing with her sexuality and feelings of rejection from friends. Anna who wants to be there for Karen and Karen who has not dealt with the grief, hardship and heartache of losing a spouse and having to tell her young children. Added to that the hospital still needs to investigate the death, perform an autopsy and release the body. Karen at this point still on Day One or Monday of the tragedy seems to be walking through life in a fog and not really focused on anything. Anna is trying to help yet she too can’t seem to come to terms with Simon’s death. Lou on the other hand succumbs to her mother’s wishes and whims as she agrees to help out with an Aunt and Uncle’s visit to with her mother instead of standing up for herself and saying no.
The author through the narrator reveals the inner thoughts of Lou as she recalls the day’s events as well as Anna’s inner feelings as she guides Karen to collect her children and tell them about their father. Young children have a different perception of life and death is often not a true reality to them. Neither child really comprehends that Simon is not coming nor can Karen carry out many of her daily routines. With the help of his parents his final arrangements are handled as the author has Karen remembering some touching moments from the past with Simon. Getting to know the characters better as author Sarah Raynor flashes back in time before Simon’s death, to Lou and her inner conflict with dealing with her preference for a partner and Anna who needs to decide whether Steve is right and permanent.
The characters begin to blend together as the author flashes from Anna to Karen then to Lou and back again. Karen deals with the funeral arrangement, saying goodbye with her children, Anna and her mother in law to Simon and then Lou deals with her mother, her demands, and questions from those she counsels about her private life and finally breaking plans because her mother demanded her help. Each character lost in her own private thoughts, world and insecurities. The story takes place within one week from start to finish as Simon dies on the train and the end result after all is said and done still remains to be seen.
The story reverts back and forth between Karen dealing with her grief, remembering wonderful times with Simon, dealing with her children and their lack of understanding that their father is gone and trying to coordinate her life. Anna and Steve seem to be drifting apart and his drinking interferes with their relationship yet he comes through when Karen needs him to help prepare the food after the funeral. Lou is torn between her anger with her mother, relenting to her demands, hoping to meet another woman and coping with her own demons and past. Next train that Lou takes is to meet Sofia and her friend Vic. Will it work out or will someone else interfere?
The final two days. Relationships come out of nowhere and sometimes are cemented when least expected. Lou begins a new relationship, Anna is rethinking hers with Steve and Karen now has to face her final moments with Simon. As Lou becomes part of the group joining Anna for support at the funeral but a sudden outburst following the service at Karen’s reveals more than Anna can stand. Steve is an alcoholic dependent on her but this time has gone too far.
Anna comes to a startling decision while Lou finds herself dealing with her family. Karen must face her life without Simon and the ending will definitely bring tears to your eyes, sadness in her heart as two young children must face life without a dad, one young woman makes a drastic change in her life, and one single moment in time changed the world for so many. Truths told, honesty, family ties revealed and some things finally made crystal clear as Lou comes to terms with her mothers feelings toward her, Anna makes a decision about her relationship with Steve and Karen finds some meaning in life.
Characters that you can embrace and vividly described. A plot that is realistic and honestly delivered. Events described by the narrator as they happen. A plot that envelops the reader from start to finish.
Life is precious and you never know what will happen and when your time will come. Things can change: One moment in time. Friendship, loyalty, understanding, kindness and three women so different, so divergent and yet so alike needing each other for friendship and more. The 7:44 train will always hold a special meaning for them. To think one morning commute would change so many lives. Simon would have been so proud of Karen, his children, Anna and would have loved Lou. Great read with so many important issues brought to light. Karen blames herself but should not. Doctors that tried but failed in her own mind. Anna who thought maybe it should have been Steve and Lou who was just there. One Moment One Morning: Outstanding Novel by author Sarah Rayner.
Fran Lewis: reviewer
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