"New Beginnings" review by award-winning novelist Robert Banfelder.
"There are stories that entertain and at the same time try to preach. There are decent stories that do double-duty in that they entertain and teach rather than preach. And then there are great stories that entertain, educate through example, and have the elements of verisimilitude built into them. That is what makes them great reads. Credibility is key. It is a recipe for success. 'New Beginnings' belongs in the latter of the lot. Why? You 'believe' from the very moment you meet Heather Langdon that you have entered the twilight zone; not Rod Serling's "Twilight Zone," per se, but a dimension of sights and sounds that fill your mind with the reality of spousal abuse. You are the frustrated outsider looking in on Heather as she rationalizes her husband's acts of cruelty - cruel-heartedness of both the mental and, eventually, the physical kind.
The pages are portholes from which you can clearly see the deterioration of Heather and John's relationship as the omniscient narrator takes you to the murky depths of the heroine's being. "Why can't Heather see what I am seeing?" you might ask yourself. "Why can't she see and understand what her good friends initially sense then come to know as being true , trying to warn her repeatedly?" Of course, you and I know the answers to those questions. Most of us do. But Heather remains suspended beneath the point where light can barely penetrate a sea of turmoil. We see out that porthole; Heather cannot see beyond her hope. What acts will bring about a resolution, if any? We certainly hear and maybe even know of women who remain in such situations until the bitter end, which amounts to a wasted life or an early grave- whichever comes first. What is to be Heather's fate?
Patti Ann Bengen's title, "New Beginnings," foreshadows the events without destroying the outcome. Her treatment of characterization from cover to cover is clever and accomplished. The circumstances surrounding Heather's plight are extraordinary but, again, not unbelievable. They are as real as real can be. Scary. Too, there is no deus ex machina employed to pull the story down in its eleventh hour. On the contrary; from denouement through the final chapter, it is the best unraveling of plot summary that I have had the pleasure of reading in recent years. What is Bengen's secret ingredient to this sucess? In a single word-family. She writes most ably of genteel families and ordinary folk, surfacing their frailities, follies, foibles as well as more serious flaws and faults. The author's canny treatment of one unsavory family member whose unruly behavior can only lead to a stormy outcome paradoxically becomes the proverbial tempest in a teacup; hence you will meet John's mother, Meredith. Of the truly wicked (I won't give away the name here), Bengen wisely wields and slashes away with her justifiably vituperative pen, proving once again that what goes around in life comes around-but not until the architect of "New Beginnings" reminds you that there are hungry wolves in sheep's clothing lurking in our world at large. You will love to hate this predatory figure. As for the assemblage of Heather's "new" family, you will hate having them step from the final page, although your heart will be fulfilled. I give Patti Ann Bengen five scintillating stars, plus another for becoming one in her own right, in what I trust will be a new beginning leading to many, many more stories to come. Given the genre of the romantic drama, I truly believe that you will adopt this wonderful writer as a favorite.
Robert Banfelder is an award-winning novelist whose psychological thriller, "The Teacher," was the winner of the Best Fiction Suspense Book for 2006 from NewBookReviews.org. His newest release is "The Author," of which Mark Reid says, "Banfelder has written another winner for 2007." Robert weaves a love and knowledge of the great outdoors through his fiction and, of course, his nonfiction.