Let’s start with what is interesting about Leesa Cross-Smith’s Whiskey and Ribbons. The story is told from three points of view that tell the story from different times in a regular rotation of voices. One thing that was kind of fun about the book to me was that they don’t swap the voices out willy nilly, but they follow a strict rotation of voices and time periods, which gives the book an interesting structure. Particularly as the timelines approach one another and begin to inform each other.
Evangaline or Evi is a ballerina who lost her husband in the line of duty a few days before she gave birth to their first child. Her story starts several months after his death on a snowy night when her son is staying with her parents. Eamon, Evangaline’s husband–tells the story from the time that he met Evi up until his death, and his half brother Dalton’s narrative overlaps the two.
There is some really good stuff here as the different timelines and different points of view are able to comment on and add to each other, but the story is largely about Evi and Dalton being snowed in together and coming to terms with their feelings for one another. (They’re into each other, but it’s complicated.) Eamon’s story gives Cross-Smith an opportunity to show Evi and Eamon in love to help us better understand their relationship and Evi’s grief.
It is an interesting idea and a skillful execution. But here’s the truth: a reading project like this is good because it pushes me out of my comfort zone in terms of the kinds of books I read, but there is a risk in that as well, and Whiskey and Ribbons made me consider bailing. I will not say this book is bad or good but simply that “your mileage may vary” and that this book was not for me.
I believe this is Leesa Cross-Smith’s first book, and I would consider reading another book by her if the subject seemed interesting to me. “A moving triptych on grief,” which is how I saw the book described elsewhere is just never a thing I want to pick up. I also found the romance between Evi and Dalton a little weird. It isn’t an impossible situation, but I didn’t really feel a connection between them other than their love for Eamon, and I really, really wanted them to at least acknowledge the weirdness of their potential romance in a way that they didn’t really.
In an interview with Salon, Cross-Smith says she always knew how the book would end, and early on, I knew how it was going to end, too. It just didn’t ring true for me.