Although I stay mostly off social media these days, I dip into Twitter every now and then, which piqued my interest in the new release from Canadian author Amy Jones. Pebble & Dove is her latest novel, which is a lighthearted take on family politics and the bonds we draw and break within that sphere. I follow Amy on Twitter because she has a super cute dog, and her husband, Andrew (also as writer), has a horror novel coming later this summer that I also plan on reviewing. A few years ago I read one of Amy’s earlier novels, and lead a book club discussion on it as well. I interviewed her for an event too, and she’s a lovely, charming person, which explains why she writes such loveable characters. Although I have a terrible memory, I know I’ve always enjoyed her books, and this one is no different.

Plot Summary

Stay-at-home mother Lauren and her teenage daughter Dove take a spontaneous trip down to Florida, to the trailer that Lauren’s mother Imogen left her when she passed away. Unbeknownst to Lauren, Dove has just been expelled from school, but Lauren has problems of her own; her husband has just asked her, via text, for a divorce, plus she’s got a mountain of debt building that she’s hidden from the rest of her family. Dove is confused as to why she’s staying in Imogen’s old trailer because she isn’t actually aware that her grandmother died, but Lauren’s mother was basically estranged from her daughter and granddaughter anyway, so these questions fall to the wayside. Instead, Dove preoccupies herself with a nearby, rundown aquarium and the giant manatee named Pebble who has essentially been forgotten there. Cranky and quirky neighbors in the Swaying Palms trailer park keep the storyline light, while Lauren and Dove fret in their separate ways. Both have secrets they keep from one another while they each try to determine what Imogen’s secrets were, and what significance this forgotten manatee played/plays in their family.

My Thoughts

The characterization is what really shines in this novel; Dove’s oscillating emotions are understandable, and believable. Lauren is a frustrating individual, but her parenting efforts are laudable, and provide a steady source of humour. There are a few chapters written from the perspective of Imogen, who remains somewhat mysterious throughout the entire novel, but this is clearly done on purpose. The minor characters that enter in and out of their lives through the unique setting of the Floridian trailer park offer entertaining breaks from the messiness of the mother daughter relationships, and really help to ground the story. Although it’s not at all a glamorous place to be, I must admit to wishing I had a few days to spend at the Swaying Palms trailer park where everyone knew each other’s business but had enough sense to mind their own most of the time anyway.

Some of the humour also comes from the disconnect between generations; Imogen and Lauren, and Lauren and Dove. Throwing a teen perspective into any novel will always result in some laughs, simply because their language, thoughts and beliefs come across as so foreign to everyone else’s. One of my favourite examples of this is when Dove realizes where her mother spent the night:

“She must have known Cal from before, maybe when she came to Florida with Nana when she was a kid. They probably reconnected over Facebook, like sad old adults do when they’re bored with their lives, stirring up all those feelings from their past. She wondered how long her mother has been planning this. She wonders how long she has just been a pawn in her mother’s twisted game.”

-p. 168 of Pebble & Dove by Amy Jones, ARC edition

I’ll admit to finding some coincidences unbelievable, but there’s no harm in including these developments, I wasn’t in search of hardboiled realism here. I got what I came for in this book; a lighthearted look at some deeper issues that we can all relate to. And strangely enough, it also gave me a new appreciation for the manatee; a large mammal we rarely see or think much about, but one that holds much to be in awe of.

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