Better Days Ahead
Better Days Ahead is a novel of hope told in four simultaneous stories. It begins in 1949 when America is on the verge of a post-war boom. Four families in different parts of the country are struggling to cope with their individual circumstances, totally unaware that their lives will eventually converge. The title refers to a song written by Sarah Robbins, a nightclub singer and single parent from Cleveland, Ohio. In Alabama, Dolores Drake takes a drastic step to keep her family safe from her drunken husband’s abuse. In Detroit, Neil Dvorak, a loving husband and father, slowly comes to realize the dangers posed by his completely self-involved wife. Eventually, these three families arrive in Santa Monica, California, where they meet and become friends with the Stratton family.
As a first-time author, Valentine deserves praise, for she has created intriguing characters. It takes real talent to keep each storyline moving without losing momentum, and she has achieved this up until the last chapter. While the end is exciting and suspenseful, it is also maudlin and suffers from too many side issues. That said, this first novel in a family saga is still worth reading.