Review: ‘Layover’ by Lisa Zeidner

“As humorous as Zeidner’s heroine is, the emotion is raw and heartfelt.”

Claire Newbold is not a conventional heroine. She’s intelligent and sexy, but she has also been known to sneak into different hotel rooms without paying, seduce a student in wet swimming trunks, and check out of important things altogether – like her job and her marriage. But it’s hardly surprising. Claire’s been suffering from heartbreak as she grieves over the death of her only child. Upon learning her husband has had an affair, she escapes from her everyday life and not only behaves illicitly but erratically too. As she moves anonymously from hotel to hotel, she tries to come to terms with the loss of her child, determine whether or not she wants to be a wife, and understand her life. Will she ever find redemption?

Claire is such a likeable character, not only because of what she says and thinks, but also because she succeeds in her immoral behaviour. The fact that she is able to remain anonymous and stay in hotels for as long as she likes without paying is laughable and incredible. Her comments about other people, whether it be about their clothes or face, made me laugh out loud.

However, beneath the humour, you get a sense of grief and loss that is raw, emotional and topical. No matter how much time has passed, a mother never forgets her child. Claire has memories of her son, Evan, but all that is left in her life is a space where he used to be and which cannot ever be filled by anyone else. The tragedy is heartfelt and it is clear that grief is all-consuming. It’s the first thing you think about when you wake up and the last thing you think about before you go to sleep. The heartache that Claire experiences has a universality to it in that any parent – or anyone for that matter – who has lost someone dear to them can relate to her emotional situation. I felt so much sympathy for Claire and I kept hoping that she would somehow find a way to keep going with her life.

Zeidner’s writing is very powerful because she captures Claire’s state of mind that is shrouded in sorrow so well. At times, I was a little confused by Claire’s thought process because it did not seem to make much sense; she would drift from one idea to the next and the next with no clear or coherent line of thought. But I think that this is the point Zeidner wants to get across to her readers: when you lose someone you love and cherish, you cannot think properly about anything for a long time, sometimes never again.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. The conclusion offers the reader hope for the future as Claire comes out of the proverbial mist and makes a decision about her life and marriage. Her ability to keep going, despite her familial circumstances, is inspirational to all those who have suffered loss. Layover is a novel that explores grief, marriage and life through its entertaining and emotional heroine.

Rating: 4/5

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