Author: Bette Lee Crosby
Published: November 2013 by Bent Pine Publishing
Category: Historical Fiction
"Olivia Westerly is the only person Ethan Allen can trust, and he’s not too sure he can trust her. She’s got no love of children and a truckload of superstitions–one of them is the belief that eleven is the unluckiest number on earth. Olivia avoided marriage for almost forty years. But when Charlie Doyle happened along, he was simply too wonderful to resist. Now she’s a widow with an eleven-year-old boy claiming to be her grandson."
Set in the 1950s Spare Change is a story from differing viewpoints. Olivia Westerly is quite happy being independent and living on her own, working at the telephone exchange. With no desire to get married, much less have children, her life continues comfortably in the same way it has for years. Until, that is, she meets Charlie Doyle. It doesn’t take long for Charlie to woo her and almost before she knows what’s happened they are married and Olivia is happier than she ever thought possible. But Charlie dies on their honeymoon and Olivia is inconsolable.
Ethan Allen is eleven years old living with his parents on a farm. His mama, Susannah, is flighty and totally undomesticated, she just wants to go to New York City to be a singer, it’s all she talks about. But Ethan’s daddy, Benjamin, has no intention of allowing it. Between the fighting, making up and general disregard from his parents Ethan does’t have much of a childhood or upbringing. When horrific and violent events occur he runs to the only person he can think of, the grandfather he has never met.
This is a gritty and, at times, tragic story with very distinctive, well-formed and colourful characters that will surely pull the reader into their lives. It was easy to get involved in the story and sympathise with the characters, especially Ethan. He is very credible given his life up to that point and the developing relationship between him and Olivia is touching.
I like the way the characters are all woven together to create an engaging story with humour, sadness, some violence but also hope and trust. The first person perspectives at the beginning of each chapter is a nice touch, like eavesdropping on that character’s thoughts.
There’s an unmistakable theme of good versus evil running through with a thread of Christianity, not in a preachy way, showing the best and worst of human nature. The epilogue may not appeal to all readers but for me it rounds the story off nicely.