This week’s entry for LRW is Ann Lee Miller’s novel The Art of My Life, sequel to Kicking Eternity.
The Art of My Life picks up a couple of years after Cal and Aly’s last encounter. Cal Koomer, who had been the art teacher at the New Smyrna Beach Surf and Sailing Camp until he was caught smoking marijuana on camp property, has wiped out on the shoals of his life and is desperate to turn things around.
Having lost his virginity to a girl he doesn’t really care about and cut off his relationship with Aly Logan in the process, he turned to weed to dull the pain in his heart. His hippie grandparents, the unmarried couple Leaf and Henna, were his suppliers for years, allowing him a free source of the narcotic. Leaf sometimes asked him to run the drug from the home garden out to the hot dog stand where he sold it to stoners like Cal.
His parents and grandparents want to give him a new start, so they’ve made it possible for him to open a charter sailing business. His grandparents deeded him their boat, the Escape, and his parents are willing to co-sign a loan. However, that means meeting with the loan officer, none other than his estranged friend and love interest Aly.
Cal and Aly had been orbiting each other for years, existing as friends while secretly in love with each other and unwilling to admit it for fear of being hurt. Aly wants to help Cal as much as his parents do, so she not only advocates for giving him the bank loan, but she ends up quitting her job at the bank and coming on board with Cal as his partner in the charter business.
Meanwhile, Cal’s best friend, Sean “Fish” Fisher, is holding a grudge because Cal’s actions have messed up his own political ambitions. At the same time, he is fighting a growing attraction to Cal’s sister Missy, now 20 and no longer the little girl who used to tag along after Cal and Fish when they were teens. Missy wants a husband and family, but Sean doesn’t see how her plans and his career goals can successfully mesh.
As with Kicking Eternity, Ann has crafted a compelling novel with complex characters who deal with difficult issues concerning trust, faith, abandonment, rejection and a number of other traumas from their pasts. Ann’s author tagline is “Flawed People. Flawless God.” This book is full of very flawed people searching for answers to life’s struggles.
I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to grab Cal by the ear, drag him over to a chair and give him what-for about his bad choices and stupid decisions. That’s how real these people will become to you.
And as in real life, the language some of the characters use is less than pure. If you don’t want to read cuss words, be forewarned. But if you can get past the language, you’ll see the pain behind the words. You may even recognize it from your own life or that of someone you know and love.
Ultimately, The Art of My Life reminds the reader that no matter how low a person sinks, they’re not out of reach of a loving God, if they’ll just take the nail-scarred Hand extended their way.