Sarah Rayner’s One Moment, One Morning is a poignant novel about friendship and its power to transcend life’s worst moments. The three women who journey in their shared tragedies are authentically crafted characters whom I found achingly believable. Although this story is emotionally charged, a very capable author avoids slipping into the melodramatic. It is tragic from the outset, but left me with a sense of hope and healing. This wonderful novel is also a quick and vigorous read which one can complete over three easy nights–and it is set within and around London, which is one of my most favorite spots for fiction!
The story opens with a shocking scene as a man suddenly dies next to his wife Karen, as they commute on a train from Brighton to London one random Monday morning. It’s the sort of senseless death we all read about in the news periodically, the kind that gives you momentary pause at the sheer horror of it, followed by that almost shameful sense of relief you feel knowing it doesn’t involve you or your loved ones. Anna, Karen’s best friend, is also on the train but several cars away and she experiences the tragedy in that disconnected way–sympathetic certainly, but not empathetic–until she finds out that the man who died is in fact a loved one, Karen’s husband and her own dear friend, Simon. Lou, a stranger sitting a few feet away, only moments before had observed the loving gestures between Karen and her husband with a tinge of jealousy that quickly turned to shame as she watched this man leave his wife by way of death. The scene is surreal and fast-moving–the kind you read through without remembering to blink or breathe.
Each subsequent chapter explores the days that follow the event. Lou finds herself becoming a part of both Anna and Karen’s lives and the circumstances by which she transforms from stranger to friend demonstrate some very clever plotting on the part of the author. To say more would steal some magic from the story.
Through a series of flashbacks by each character, we come to learn about the lives of Karen, Anna and Lou, as well as Simon, who though gone physically from the story remains ever-present. Indeed, his death becomes a catalyst of change for all three woman, who find themselves taking inventory of their own lives, as the impact of the loss of a very good husband, father, and friend, is felt by them all.
What the novel also illustrates is that tragedy comes in many forms. There are those that are instant, inexplicable and unchangeable, such as the death of Simon which lays the foundation for this novel. And then there are the subtle, slow-moving tragedies–those that can be reversed with courage and support. Such is the case for Anna, who though intelligent, confident, and successful, is sinking ever more deeply into an abusive relationship with her alcoholic partner. As for Lou, her inability to free herself from cruel parental shackles in order to create a true and open partnership with another woman has left her in the depths of loneliness. Both stories are heart-wrenching.
Three tragedies–three friends–it is the mutual web of support woven by Karen, Anna, and Lou, which makes this story such a beautiful read. Through their love and support of one another, each finds an inner-strength to face and transcend their own lives.
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: December, 2011 (USA)