Review: The Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Robin Palmer

Pub. Date: June 27th, 2013
Publisher: Speak
400 pages

The Corner of Bitter and Sweet is utter perfection. There were no events, words, or sentences that didn’t have a purpose. At first I was slightly put off by the more serious tone and the slower pace, but I quickly realized that that was because of my own idea of what I should expect from a Robin Palmer novel – an interesting realization given that so much of this novel is about abandoning your perception of how things or people should be, and accepting them for what they are. It took me a few chapters to really get into the story, but I think I needed the time to allow myself to become attached to the characters. Once I was attached, there was no putting the book down.

Annabelle Jacobs has more pressure and responsibility on her shoulders than any 16 year old should. Her mother, once an A-List actress, left a successful TV-show for bigger and better film roles that never came. Now her mother is not only a self-obsessed actress, but also utterly dependant on pills and alcohol to make it through the day. After being called in the middle of the night to bail her mom out of jail for a DUI, no one would have blamed Annabel for completely giving up hope that her mom could ever be the mom she once knew. But, The Corner of Bitter and Sweet is not about losing hope; it is about finding hope.

Every character in this novel is highly flawed with unique coping mechanism to make it through the day. Their process of riding themselves of these mechanisms, learning to depend and need other people, and really learn to trust again, is extraordinarily compelling.  There are so many little things and little lines throughout, especially near the end when the characters have grown significantly, that are literally sheer perfection. I won’t quote any of the lines because they are so worth getting to and reading within context, but I had chills, and I cried, because I became so invested in the characters, their relationships and their growth, that I felt supremely proud and moved by how far they came.

There were many other great elements to the novel including genuine romance, but some of my favorite elements were Annabelle’s photography and the secondary characters. Annabelle’s photography really helped her come into her own and gain confidence in herself. It was nice that there was at least one constant positive in her life. While all the secondary characters really added to the novel, my favorite was by far Walter, Annabelle's friends from Alateen (a group for kids with parents in AA). He offered an honest portrayal of what it is like to have a parent with an addiction, that I don’t think was possible for Annabelle’s mom to represent if the reader was expected to invest fully in their relationship. I appreciated Walter so much because he gave Annabelle a space where she could finally be honest with her experiences and feelings.

Books like this are why I love to read. The Corner of Bitter and Sweet is beautifully crafted with honest representations of the relationship struggles we all have at some point, especially the internal relationship we have with ourselves.

Rating 10/10

** I received a copy of this novel from the publisher to read and honestly review. I was in no way compensated. 

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