||September 5, 2006
When four teenage girls decide to risk the enticing world of temptation and danger, they cannot predict how their behavior will change...and in some cases...destroy innocent lives.
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Summertime is hot and dull in the Central Valley of California and four teenage girls from very different families are determined to spice it up. With a single-mindedness that foretells disaster, they push aside all the rules and explore the underbelly of valley life. Drugs, sex, alcohol, adventure, anything to challenge the norm, yet all experienced without the benefit of maturity. As the girls become increasingly uncontrollable, their mothers--from dramatically diverse social classes---are forced to work together to save their daughters. Like a tornado moving across the landscape, lives are wrenched from their foundations.
Page after page, and over a period of two years, the author introduces characters who struggle to support and defeat the dreams of what began as four innocent girls desiring to taste the forbidden fruit. The book explores the lives of very diverse family systems, as well as the mechanism that drives a cross-section of an All-American community.
He enjoyed watching her drive along the freeway, and east on Herndon, unaware of his presence. He stayed three cars behind her. After all, he knew just where she was going. When she pulled into her complex, she gave that furtive little look over her shoulder, but by then, he was down the block and behind a couple of other parked cars. He could see her clearly, though, with his binoculars, and could almost feel her fear by the expression on her face. That deer-caught-in-the- headlights look that really turned him on!
He waited for awhile before he drove away. Returning to his own little nest, he savored every moment as he anticipated that she would be waiting for him. Once inside, he sank down into his armchair and his gaze circled the walls, taking in the additional photos he had captured with his telephoto lens; these were some of his best work! He admired them, especially the ones where he had caught her looking nervous and frightened. That doe-eyed look.
He smiled to himself and closed his eyes, while the anticipation of his next step titillated his fantasies.
A Coming and Going of Age Story - By Elizabeth Raftery
Laurel-Rain Snow's "An Accidental Life" tells a familiar story: Four teenage girls have a "coming-of-age" summer during which they experiment with alcohol, drugs and sex. (Think "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" meets "Trainspotting").
But in her debut novel, the...author manages a unique feat by detailing how the girls' behavior affects not
only them, but the parents, guardians, boyfriends, and social workers who surround them.
Sick of hearing about a 15-year-old's unwanted pregnancy? Flip ahead a few pages and find a subplot about a social worker who's being stalked by an unknown obsessor. Think the "junkie boyfriend" storyline is cliched? Not so much when you realize that the book focuses more on his mother's dialogue—both internal and external—than his.
In a story which could be replete with minor characters, there are surprisingly few. An ex-husband,
whom many authors would write off in a passing reference, acts as a major foil. Snow also offers more than a peek into a next-door lover's past, and exposes a reluctant grandmother for the fraud she really is.
"The people that are in the book, I just want to look at them closely and examine them," Snow said, in a telephone interview from her home in California's Central Valley. "I thought it was more interesting to watch the interactions between people...I felt like I was taking the
reader through the lives of the people from day to day."
Snow said she drew on her personal experiences as a social worker when developing her characters. Many of the instances in the novel are loosely based on clients whose cases were
handled by Snow and her co-workers.
"You write what you know, and that was a good part of my adult life," she said. "The people themselves are composites. I tried very carefully not to make anybody closely resemble a
Snow said she also drew upon her own personal history, as well as her professional background.
"An Accidental Life" is set in the 1990s when one of Snow's four children was a teenager having some of the same experiences that Snow touches on in the novel.
"I felt like I had an insider's view of that period," she said, noting the methamphetamine boom around that time that plays a major role in the novel.
Her experiences as a parent and a social worker, Snow said, provided a model for Karin Larson, a single mother and social worker — and, incidentally, one of the more well-adjusted characters in the novel.
Unlike many other works in the "coming-of-age" genre, "An Accidental Life" carries the girls'experiences past that first summer. The 458-page book spans nearly two years and paints a cautionary picture of how the adolescents' decisions over a few weeks influence their lives in the months to come.
"It didn't seem to be enough to stop at the summer," Snow said. "I wanted to continue. The consequences unfold over a long period of time."
Snow said she's been writing in one form or another since she was 8 years old; however, her journal entries soon evolved into college term papers and written reports when she began a career as a social worker.
"I always longed to get back to something a little more creative," she said.
Shortly before she retired, Snow's passion was rekindled by modern technology.
"I got a computer," she explained. "It made it so much easier to write, and you could revise things easily... I got addicted. I just kept going."
Snow wrote the book in 2001 and said she spent about five years off and on making revisions and cuts. With five completed manuscripts under her belt ("Life" is the second of the quintet), she initially tried the "traditional" publishing route, finally getting picked up by a small firm in Missouri.
But, after more than four years had passed and not a single work had been printed, Snow decided to take matters into her own hands. She's distributing "An Accidental Life"
independently through BookSurge, a division of Amazon.com for self-publishers.
She also has plans for a second novel to come out later this year. "Embrace the Chaos" (sic) will follow Savannah, one of the characters in "An Accidental Life" as she juggles motherhood and college. (note: Embrace the Whirlwind).
Snow condensed her life story into the central theme of the novel.
"I kind of got here accidentally and sort of got stuck," she explained with a laugh, discussing her arrival in Friant, Calif. "Things just sort of unfold all by themselves if you let them."
- Blast Magazine
Riveting Family Drama!
By Betty Dravis "BettyDravis@gmail.com, author of The Toonies Invade Silicon Valley +"
This intriguing novel is, basically, a family drama about the trouble four teenage girls from the Central Valley of California cause when they make some poor decisions. As with most teens, the trouble comes in the form of boys, sex, drugs, and/or alcohol. "After all," they reason,
school's almost over and they want to have "the best summer ever."
But this powerful story is much more than that. It's also about the struggles their mothers face as they attempt to help their daughters; a story of strong, single mothers from diverse backgrounds and education bonding together in times of need.
"An Accidental Life" opens with Karin Larson, the main character, asking herself some hard questions about life; lately she's become a little disenchanted with her heavy responsibilities and elusive social life. Her career as a social worker--helping families in crisis--as rewarding as it is, often drains Karin, but she manages the fine balance of raising her teen-age daughter Bridget alone. They have a close mother-daughter relationship.
At the time Karin is thinking of "dating" again, Bridget is expanding her circle of friends,
seeking a little more independence. Little does Karin know her life is about to get more complicated as author Laurel-Rain Snow seamlessly blends the teens' trauma with Karin's
coworkers' problems and some exciting adventures with her "cases" at work.
What happens to Bridget's new friend Savannah is the first disaster in a string of disasters that escalate to form this multi-faceted story. Why can't Savannah's mother help her? And what happen to the other girls, Bree, Wendy, and Bridget? Are any of the teen boys "stand-up" kind of guys? Can they help? Do they help? Will Karin and the others, including several of the boys' parents, be able to help them get their lives back on track and go on to brighter futures?
I particularly enjoy one of the boy's mothers, Melody, but this book is sprinkled with so many warm, troubled, colorful characters that I empathized with them all. They enliven the pages,
keeping the reader eagerly anticipating the next exciting event.
In addition to the teens' problems, there are several adult romances, and I admire the author's restraint in keeping the love scenes discreet. Admirably done, Laurel-Rain Snow!
And in another surprising twist, there's a serial-killer on the loose, stalking Molly, one of Karin's young, lovely co-workers. This is a truly exciting part of this novel: I couldn't wait to learn his identity and motivation. What a creep!
All in all, I love this book. Laurel-Rain Snow is a gifted writer who understands the human psyche with all its foibles. To be completely honest, I have one minor complaint, which may
not bother others. The slight flaw, IMHO, is that some of the descriptions of decor and clothing are too long and happen too often, interfering with the flow of the story. As a result I didn't get into the characters for about the first fifty pages. Am I ever glad I didn't quit because when this author hooked me, her riveting words and realistic characters held me tight ... until I floated back to reality at the satisfying ending of this powerful drama.
I enthusiastically recommend this heart-warming tale of real people with real problems ... people just like you and me ... or someone we know.
Reviewed by: Betty Dravis, October, 2008
author of 1106 Grand Boulevard
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Reader Reviews for "An Accidental Life"
|Reviewed by Laurel-Rain Snow
|Reviewed by Linda Newton Perry
|Sounds interesting. I can picture that part of California. I went through the third grade in Porterville, then moved to Kansas.
Happy writing. Linda