Brooke Ellis is twenty-three and has just quietly returned to her small hometown of Lanark where she’s living in a depressing basement apartment and working a quiet job at the local library. She won’t tell her parents why she’s back or why she suddenly left her job working for politician Derek Murdoch. But when Murdoch is suddenly at the centre of a sex scandal, Brooke is forced to confront her feelings, her past with Derek, and what her future might be.
Author Kerry Clare is a blogger at Pickle Me This and a champion of Canadian fiction. I follow her in Instagram and find her delightful. I’ll be honest, this was a big part of why I chose to buy the book. I figured the enjoyment I get from her blog and feed was worth buying her book whether or not I ended up loving it.
The good news is that I did enjoy Waiting for a Star to Fall, even when it faltered in places. Clare does a great job of capturing that early-20s uncertainty. That stage of life that is both real adulthood and on the cusp of adulthood. And she does so in a sympathetic and believable way so that it never feels like she’s looking down on or dismissing that stage. Brooke is likeable and believable. She’s made some poor decisions but she isn’t a frustrating character to follow along with. We’re told she was sensible and good at her job and I believed it, despite her apathy and despondency in her current life. I was able to believe that this was indeed a snapshot of Brooke’s life.
Clare also does a great job of shining a lens on accusations of sexual misconduct against powerful men. Derek is the leader of a political party, in his late-30s, charming, with a bit of a reputation as a ladies man. He’s a left-leaning, hard-working politician, perhaps idealistic but well-loved by his constituents. He has a history of hiring young women (including Brooke, who he met in a bar) and hopping from one relationship to another. But the accusations that have now surfaced against him are of an entirely different sort. And if they’re true, what does that mean about the years Brooke has devoted to his political career? What does it mean about the relationship that developed between them?
As Brooke is forced to reckon with who Derek Murdoch might really be and what their relationship might really have meant, we also learn more about what that relationship looked like. While the reveal felt slow at times – the narration is very much Brooke’s POV so it felt a bit artificial that we had to wait so long – Clare does an excellent job of creating a nuanced and complicated situation. And while the book is a relatively easy read and has a lot of the markers of “Women’s Fiction” (as much as I loathe that term), it doesn’t settle for any easy answers or straightforward paths.
This is a book that made me glad to not be twenty-three anymore but also thankful that, once upon a time, I was.