It's Beta Club day! On the agenda: Literary Fiction. As I've mentioned before, this is not my specialty, so I'm hoping my lit fic buffs out there will help me out with this critique (along with everyone else.) Enjoy!
For newbies: If you haven't been here on beta club day yet, don't be afraid to jump in with your comments. All feedback is welcome as long as it's constructive. And if anyone has an itch to be critiqued, the rules for submitting to the Beta Club are under the "Free Critiques" heading at the top of the page.
Alright, please read through the author's excerpt, then provide your feedback in the comments. My detailed critique is below. Author: Amber Tidd Murphy (Stop by her blog for some daily hilarity) Title: A Sad Song in a Flat Key Genre: Literary Fiction
It all started when Laurel was a girl, and her mother walked out on Laurel's father, because don't all our stories really start there, all the way back in those formative years? The deck might already be stacked against us, but the cards are still being shuffled and have not yet been dealt. Then, like lightning, some event or non-event happens or does not happen, and we are thrust into the wheels of fate, which are turned and clank.
Yes, she suffered from the same daddy issues that afflict almost everyone else in this day and age. Still, she felt it poor form to use that as an excuse for the way her life turned out. Who didn't keep a skeleton stuffed closet, after all, crammed full of those secrets that go bump after midnight? When her mind chased sleep the darkness left little room for facades, and she was left to remember it all. If she were celebrating a middle-aged birthday, an emcee might have grabbed a microphone and crooned, Laurel Lancaster, this is your life! as he rolled the tape. A curly haired, cherry cheeked child would appear on a screen while the music of a merry-go-round faded in a bit atonally.
Laurel remembered it with clarity: the day her mother left her father. She was barely five years old; she hadn't started kindergarten. Her sister, Laine, was a screaming toddler. Carol, Laurel's portly mother, wore a powder blue dress. She told her husband the girls were off for ice cream, and they walked out into the heat of that summer in 1986 and never looked back. Carol drove the seven miles to her parents' house and moved back home, heavy two children.
Laurel's grandmother, Elizabeth Hutchings, was a warm, round woman who made butter and sugar sandwiches for Laurel and Laine. Her grandfather, Calvin, worked for Farm Bureau Insurance and smelled of cigarettes, not stale cigarettes, but like bonfires in October. He traveled often, yet when he returned with the grandest of presents -- piggy banks already nearly full of shiny silver coins -- his absence was forgiven and forgotten. They were married in the early forties, before the war. Carol was their only living child; Laurel's uncle Ross died before she was born. Mr. and Mrs. Hutchings hosted many friends and dinner parties, and were the sort who would neaten their home before the cleaning lady arrived, embarrassed to show any sign of weakness, even in the form of dust bunnies.
They were big on appearances, but Laurel crept halfway down the stairs the night they moved in, and watched from behind the banister, her chubby childish fingers tightly wrapped around the smooth, white bars until her knuckles became camouflaged in the same color. Her grandparents sat up straight on the couch, one on either side of her mother. Calvin smoothed Carol's hair while Elizabeth wiped her daughter’s tears. In the dark, drapes tightly drawn, family secrets could breathe. An envy rose in Laurel's chest as she watched her mother in that moment, surrounded by two loving parents, strong Midwesterners who had lost their son to AIDS and would now carry a daughter through divorce.
They lived in Bedford, Indiana, the limestone capital of the world. The house was red brick with a wide front porch overlooking the main street in town. It sat directly across from the new city pool, a chaotic, loud place, foreign to Laurel. She was afraid of the water. She sat in her playroom and stared out the second floor window, mesmerized by the twisting water slide. She wondered when she would be brave enough to climb the mountain of steps to the top for the sole purpose of sliding down.
The day the call came would be that day.
Below is my critique, click on FULL SCREEN, then once the document opens, RIGHT CLICK to zoom so you can see the comments.
Alright, so what do you think? Are you hooked? What did the author do well? What things could be improved? Thanks ahead of time for offering your feedback! And thank you to Amber for volunteering!