Tracing the Bones: A Novel by Elise A. Miller

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“Neil and I slept in separate rooms for the first six months. Now we sleep in the same bed, but in separate universes.”
This story is a taste of the paranormal with a stinging cynical tongue. This isn’t what I would call a romance, it is darker and just the right side of meaty. And the cover, something about it beckons. Eve Myer doesn’t just have back pain, she has chronic being alive pain with alternating moments of being underwhelmed by the monotony of daily life and overwhelmed by family demands. Her husband is flawed, and we learn early on why she is exasperated with him and ‘sleeping in a separate universe’. Her new neighbors Billy and Anna bring a a spark to her daily boredom. It isn’t long before she is fascinated and envious of gorgeous Anna and lusting after healer Billy. Who wouldn’t grab the chance to heal their chronic back pain, there isn’t anything suspicious of that? Not her fault Billy oozes sexuality. But something isn’t right and Eve is getting a little too close to the family. Why is she having strange experiences induced by Anna’s presence? When Anna dies a tragic, suspicious death people on the outside begin to judge Eve’s choices and it isn’t long before secrets rise to the surface.
What I really enjoyed about this novel is that the ending was not what I expected at all. The cynicism is far more believable in Eve than the usual ‘everything is bright and wonderful and I have no complaints’ characters we usually get. You can love your children ‘And there are times when I well up with a love so vast and fathomless that I could eat them.’ and still be exhausted by the demands of mothering. I love when her son, her brilliant boy is looking for his bionicle. That is how real children behave, one track minds and rudely disruptive, not like the mannered little robots that are as interesting as wallpaper. You can feel envious and snarky about women like Anna who have perfect bodies and homes and still be a good person. Does she make the best choices? Of course not, but no one does really. Her mother and sister are wonderful characters too. This novel begs the question, is it realistic to have a life with a man that consumes you? I think of all the wonderful tales of star crossed love, of love so great the entire world disappears… but then there is the ugliness of the everyday. The snoring when you’re trying to sleep and toxic bodily excretions, screaming children, in-laws that interfere- fact is, there isn’t so  great  a love that it can remain a constantly in a high? Love waxes and wanes like the moon. Now it’s time for some ‘noxious woolgathering’, as Eve calls it.

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