Title: The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster
Author: Scott Wilbanks
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Release Date: August 4th, 2015
Source: Won from The Audiobookworm
Annabelle Aster doesn’t bow to convention—not even that of space and time—which makes the 1890s Kansas wheat field that has appeared in her modern-day San Francisco garden easy to accept. Even more peculiar is Elsbeth, the truculent schoolmarm who sends Annie letters through the mysterious brass mailbox perched on the picket fence that now divides their two worlds.
Annie and Elsbeth’s search for an explanation to the hiccup in the universe linking their homes leads to an unsettling discovery—and potential disaster for both of them. Together they must solve the mystery of what connects them before one of them is convicted of a murder that has yet to happen…and yet somehow already did.
The first thing I have to say about this is that the audiobook narrator (Tavia Gilbert) is fantastic. Her talent for voices, especially across the range of genders and ages, was one of the best I’ve heard.
OK, on to the book. I have mixed feelings. I like that the characters are quirky, and all a bit damaged in ways subtle enough to be realistic. In fact, I’d say the characters are Scott Wilbanks’ strength. Christian’s sexuality was handled with a much lighter touch than I’ve seen before in fiction, which was a standout. He’s also an exemplary friend, and somehow all that development meant Annie felt less the lead and more a plot device.
The story itself was a mixed bag. It just didn’t seem to know if it was a sweet wandering fiction, a time travel murder mystery, a twisty psychological thriller, or a story about family and accepting yourself. Every time it seemed to find its footing on one genre, it switched to another. And it pulled some cheap tricks to do so. If it had stuck to one, I’d have liked it better. Also, the entire bootstrap paradox aspect (utterly ignored), combined with the lack of time travel to visit other loved ones, was perplexing. And frustrating. Mostly because I expect my authors to assume reader intelligence, and not gloss over the interesting physics and science fiction bits.
So overall, I’m giving it a B. The character development and quirk was an A, but the cheap tricks and skipping important bits was a C, so I compromised.