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A Soft Place to Land

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From the award-winning author of Bound South comes a powerful, moving novel of family loss and sisterly redemption.

For more than ten years, Naomi and Phil Harrison enjoyed a marriage of heady romance, tempered only by the needs of their children. But on a vacation alone, the couple perishes in a flight over the Grand Canyon. After the funeral, their daughters, Ruthie and Julia, are shocked by the provisions in their will…not the least of which is that they are to be separated.

Spanning nearly two decades, the sisters’ journeys take them from their familiar home in Atlanta to sophisticated bohemian San Francisco, a mountain town in Virginia, the campus of Berkeley, and lofts in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. As they heal from loss, search for love, and begin careers, their sisterhood, once an oasis, becomes complicated by resentment, anger, and jealousy. It seems as though the echoes of their parents’ deaths will never stop reverberating—until another shocking accident changes everything once again.

352 pages, Paperback

First published April 4, 2010

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About the author

Susan Rebecca White

5 books281 followers
Susan Rebecca White is the author of four novels: Bound South, A Soft Place to Land, A Place at the Table, and the forthcoming We Are All Good People Here, which will be published by Atria / Simon & Schuster on August 6, 2019. A graduate of Brown University and the MFA program at Hollins University, Susan has taught creative writing at Hollins, Emory, SCAD, and Mercer University, where she was the Ferrol A. Sams, Jr. Distinguished Chair of English Writer-in-Residence. Susan lives in her hometown of Atlanta with her husband Sam Reid and their son.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 846 reviews
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,538 reviews9,965 followers
November 14, 2016
Well, I liked the first half of the book and I love the cover of the book, but then I just didn't like it any more.

There were just too many things and not what I was thinking at all.

I know a lot of people like this book and some just don't, unfortunately I wasn't into it but I'm glad so many others could love it =) That's the whole point of reading, finding books we love.

Profile Image for Julie.
329 reviews2 followers
July 29, 2011
I was interested in the premise of the book about what happens when two young sisters in their teens suddenly lose their parents in a plane crash. Julia and Ruthie are half sisters, and after their parents' death, Julia is sent to live with her biological father and evangelical-Christian step mother, while Ruthie is sent to live with a loving aunt and uncle in San Francisco.

The beginning of the book, when the parents first die, has a depth of detail (at times I almost wondered whether it was too much detail) to help you understand fully the connection between the sisters and their emotions in the aftermath of their parents death. The book falls apart in later chapters however. After their separation, you never feel that you fully understand either sister. Ruthie, the narrator, is more understood than Julia, but in the last third of the book when she moves back to Atlanta she felt like a stranger to me. For Julia, I never fully understood or grasped the pain she suffered at the drastic change in her situation; in fact, I never understood what motivated adult Julia or was able to get inside her head. Very frustrating.

Then to be nitpicky, there were a few details that were thrown into the book that I couldn't figure out what their point was: Ruthie's boyfriend is a Jew who converted to Catholicism. There is a lot of discussion of this in the book, but really, I can't figure out how it's relevant to the core story of the bond between sisters (the author wanted to cast judgment on something Ruthie did when she was 18, but it didn’t work for me, I just thought the boyfriend was an ass). Also, Julia somewhere along the way announces that she's with a woman, but her coming out is never discussed nor is her partner ever in the story. It's almost as if the author felt Julia was too one dimensional and wanted to add in something to spice up the character. But I wondered what was the point of her coming out as a lesbian? It didn't impact the story or improve it in any way, and it was barely discussed after the initial announcement.

It could have been a great book, but it fell far short.
Profile Image for Beth.
530 reviews15 followers
August 28, 2011
I really wanted to like this book, but I didn't. It had so many things wrong with it.

There isn't a lot of character development, so I felt like I never got to know any of the characters other than maybe Ruthie, since she was narrating.

Also, the story was SO disjointed. It jumped all around, from time to time and place to place, and there wasn't a lot of continuity to it. I thought it was going to be about the two sisters, and how they dealt with the aftermath of their parents' death -- but that seemed to only be addressed in a very minor way. There was so much that was thrown in there that just wasn't interesting or didn't seem to matter in the grand scheme of the story.

Another huge pet peeve of mine is when things are brought up in a story, but then left unanswered at the end. Like what really happened during all those years to Julia? This was supposed to be a story about the sisters, but we hardly heard anything about Julia. What happened to her after The Center? Why/how did she become lesbian? Also, what happened with all the letters that Naomi wrote that the new owner of the fancy house in Atlanta found and gave to Ruthie? What was in them? Did Ruthie share the letters with Julia for her memoir? Did the sisters finally close the gap? Also, why did Ruthie and Gabe even stay together? They seemed to have so little in common, and he did nothing but annoy me. So much was left unanswered, it really irritated me. I put the book down at the end feeling totally unsatisfied.

There was also just to little detail to parts of the story that I felt should have been explained more, and way too much detail in other parts -- like all of the painful mundane details of all the neighborhoods in Atlanta, and even San Francisco, to some extent, which surely are only interesting to those who live/lived there--- for me, it was just boring crap to skim over.

Overall, this was a disjointed, boring, not all that interesting story that had potential, but fell really short. I will not be recommending this to anyone.
Profile Image for Shelly♥.
687 reviews10 followers
August 24, 2012
This book showed so much promise in the first 50, but alas fell short for me in a lot of ways.

The characters of Ruthie and Julia are initially so interesting, as they bond on the death of their parents, you peek a bit into their souls and their relationship with one another. But instantly the story begins to jump around. Things happen, but then they're over - on to the next. Yet is there any fall out from these incidents? They seem like bombshells, yet the author glosses over them time and time again. Julia becomes a virtual stranger to both the reader and her sister. There is no real exploration of the hurt between them, just shallow reasons why. Honestly, the end of the book is nothing at all. It didn't leave me satisfied, like all of a sudden everything was magically cured? I was just glad it was over.

The other thing that BOTHERED me about this book was the number of stereotypes the author portrays and how she divides them into "good" and "bad" categories. Liberals, good. Christians, bad. Gays, good. Housewives, bad. Pro-choice good. Pro-life bad. Obama good. Bush bad. I really HATE contemporary books that bring current politicians into the story by name - especially because it was totally unnecessary to the story. No, I didn't care that Ruthie was cheering that Bush was in office for only 6 more days. It only says something about the author - something she made clear throughout the book. She marginalizes Ruthie's abortion at 18, and their is no fallout from this action. Ruthie is totally unaffected, except when her pro-life boyfriend finds out about it. And the only good Christian in the whole world is Gabe, who is Catholic and therefore unable to be connected with the Southern Baptist stereotypes the author paints throughout the book. And the Christian Rehab Center she mentions. Not sure I've ever heard of anything quite like that (and I live in Virginia), so I'm not sure if that is a fabrication of her anti Christian fantasies.

The irony of all of this is that a quote on the back cover from author Todd Johnson says, "She whacks through stereotypes with a machete, ultimately rejecting them all, and finding instead deep compassion for the flaws that make us human." Nope. Not even close. Again, these things say much about the author, more than the story. Does she really dislike people because they make a certain lifestyle choice (like stay at home Mom, Jesus freak or pro life)?

I don't recommend this book to anyone. If you can get past the political drivel, there is neither character nor plot to fully entertain.
100 reviews1 follower
July 14, 2010
I bought this book because Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help, had a little recommendation blurb for it on the cover. Well, it turns out Kathryn can write a good book, but not necessarily identify one. Perhaps she was friends with the author and doing her a favor or something.

Kathryn indicated that this would be an excellent book club pick, suggesting that it was somehow thought-provoking or discussion-worthy. It was not. It was just the story of a relationship between two sisters.

Now, maybe if I had a sister, I would appreciate this book more. But being the two-brother-having person that I am, I found this book incredibly dull. There was so much pointless fluff in this book. For example, there were entire paragraphs devoted to an incident where the characters look for a parking spot. I figured if the author was going to take the time to detail such an event, it must mean that some major plot development was going to occur during the search for parking (an accident, an attack, some major fight between the characters). Nope. Just looking for a parking spot. Only Seinfeld can pull off a storyline based on such a mundane event.

Also, it's one of those books where they flash back to stupid anecdotes just when an important plot development is supposed to happen. You know, like they're all gathering around to read somebody's will, and just then it says something like, "Ruthie thought back to a time when her father took her to a carnival when she was 8." Just get to the damn will!

Plus I hated the love interest. That guy deserved to be smacked.
Profile Image for Lori.
493 reviews18 followers
March 8, 2022
This is a pretty good book all about the forces that shape us as we grow up. A pair of half sisters lose their parents in a tragic plane crash and then lose each other as each is sent to live with a different relative in different parts of the country.the sibling bond and teenaged antics are portrayed well enough. As the girls enter college and find love interests, careers, grow up a bit, the story kinda spins away. The time setting spans early 1990s through 2009 so 911 makes an appearance which felt right in the story.however, other newsy stories show up as well that feel like cheap device. The ending seemed mumbled, incomplete. There really is no resolve for either character, no maturity or forgiveness forth coming. Everything just hangs there in mid swing.almost, almost satisfying
Profile Image for window.
503 reviews33 followers
January 25, 2011
A Soft Place to Land tells the story of two half-sisters who struggle to cope with two different realities after their mother Naomi, and (step) father, Phil, are killed in a plane crash. Ruthie, the younger sister, is sent to live with an aunt and uncle in San Francisco while the Julia, the older one, is sent to live in Virginia with her real father and his wife.

The book starts off slow, despite the manufactured drama of the plane crash that took Naomi’s and Phil’s lives. The sisters are 13 and 16 years old, but they talk like stodgy grown-ups often enough that it was mildly irritating. The author spends a lot of time looking backwards at the lives of Naomi and Phil, I suppose in an attempt to humanize them and create a feeling of sadness in the reader at their deaths but it just didn’t work for me. The sisters talk about their dead parents almost like old people would engage in fond reminisces of yesterdays with “remember whens”. We are told they are sad, but I didn’t really feel it. Similarly, the inclusion of 9/11 was so flat with no emotional pull at all that I think it would have been better left out. It felt like the book tried to borrow emotion from actual events since the narrative didn’t produce any.

Most of the page count is spent on the girls’ teen years from Ruthie’s point of view. She is the sister who has it together and is well-behaved, while Julia has all sorts of problems, most of which started before her parents were killed. I thought that Julia was the far more interesting sister of the two and would have liked to have more of her viewpoint. The pace picks up steam once the Ruthie goes to high school, rocketing through her high school and college years until –wham!-she’s a young adult. Along the way, a wedge develops between the sisters and Ruthie has some experiences that show her to not quite be the good girl she’s been throughout the novel but there is no transition there to explain the sudden change in her character. I found the adult version of the sisters more interesting than the teen versions and would have liked more focus on their adult lives. Also, Julia’s memoir, excerpted in the book, was very interesting and did work on an emotional level. I wished the author would have let Julia have more voice in the story.

I was left dissatisfied with the ending as the author alludes to issues with Ruthie and her marriage that are never resolved. The strained relationship between the sisters is never resolved either. There is also a contrived plot development with Naomi and some journals, but that too is left hanging. It’s almost as if the author realized that things moved a little too slowly in the beginning of the book and so much page count was spent getting to know the dead parents that the last part of the book was rushed and there was no page count left to tie up the plot lines and character development at the end.
The novel didn’t end so much as it just stopped.

This was a story that had a lot of potential but the lack of emotion, odd pacing, sudden shifts in characterization, contrived events, and an unfinished ending left this reader disappointed. Not a bad read, but not a great one either.
Profile Image for Erin.
43 reviews5 followers
March 19, 2010
This was the first in a series of new books that I read one after the other that dealt with the loss of family members and relationships with siblings and honestly, it was the one I liked the least. In fact, I've put off writing this review because I almost felt bad for not liking the book.

In the most straightforward of terms: did not like, or relate to, any character in the book. I'm not saying that I have to relate to every character that I read but I do want to have some sort of emotional connection with them and in A Soft Place To Land all I felt was irritation and annoyance. I had no sympathy or empathy but instead borderline antipathy against Ruthie and Julia.

In addition, the plot was rather predictable, the path laid out for the reader but then seemingly strewn with bright neon signs flashing "FORESHADOWING!!" and "CAN YOU GUESS WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?!?!?"

All that said, I think Susan Rebecca White does have some clear writing talent, able to infuse a sense of locale(s) into the book. Her nuance for geographical description was shrewd and intuitive.
Profile Image for Katie.
2,712 reviews142 followers
March 12, 2019
A few thing to note:

1. There was a throwaway line about a dead kitten at the end. I WAS UPSET.
2. This is one of the books with misleading summary. The book is almost entirely from the POV of just one of the sisters, so it felt like HER book, not a book about both of them. Not a bad thing--in fact, I kind of like the choice to have it told from the POV of the less troubled sister, but not what I expected.
3. It just kind of . . . ended.

So . . . it was fine. It kept me engaged, which you know I always appreciate, but in retrospect, I am mostly annoyed at the book. It didn't do a good time jumping through time. I feel like I missed too much.
Profile Image for Jane.
783 reviews43 followers
January 18, 2022
I really thought this was going to be a sad and somber book because of the plot but I was wrong. It was a sweet story about siblings, sibling rivalries (sort of).

Ruthie and Julia were step-sisters who loved each other when they were younger but when their parents died in a plane crash when they were in 7th grade (Ruthie) and Julia (sophomore in high school), they were separated. Julia went to her biological father's house in Tennessee and Ruthie to her father's aunt and her aunt's husband in San Francisco. It wasn't easy for them to be apart but they did and it put a strain on their relationship thanks to Julia's father's wife.

The book went into the future into their growing years. When Julia became an author she wrote a memoir but Ruthie never knew about the epilogue which Julia exposed something about her that almost killed her relationship with her boyfriend that she never told him. Then things turned around for their relationship but it tore them apart once again when Julia was writing another memoir that Ruthie didn't want to give her information. In the end, they end up reconciling once again.
Profile Image for Chelsea Cripps.
100 reviews5 followers
January 16, 2012
There were things I really loved about this novel, this story of two sisters and the irrevocable changes wrought in their lives after their parents are killed in a plane crash when the girls are in their early teens. I enjoyed the way that White weaves reality so seamlessly into her story. The book follows Ruthie and Julia throughout their lives, and since the characters were born around the same time I was, I found it really amusing to note the details she pulls out to enhance different moments in time and place. Although sometimes it got just a wee bit heavy handed.
The story was touching and sweet and kept me reading obsessively, but there was something about her paradigm that kind of rubbed me the wrong way. The book, while tackling some very spiritual topics like death and relationships is very deeply secular. That in itself I have no problem with, but she seems to be trying to present herself as "balanced" and her efforts fall a little flat for me. Todd Johnson, in a review on the back of the book, claims that "She whacks through stereotypes with a machete, ultimately rejecting them all, and finding instead deep compassion for the flaws that make us human." Except that she doesn't. Maybe if you are talking about stereotypes regarding homosexuals or Jews or kids in rehab. I did feel like her presentation of those characters was very realistic and well rounded. But there were several groups I felt were treated in very stereotyped ways--Christians, suburbanites, pro-lifers, housewives. Her attempts at whacking through those stereotypes is to give us a character whom we love despite his Catholicism and pro-life sentiments. Someone whom we forgive these "flaws" because he has other great attributes to make up for it.
Profile Image for bibanon1.
205 reviews17 followers
May 12, 2010
I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

Naomi and Phil Harrison die in a terrible plane crash while vacationing leaving behind two teenaged daugthers, Ruthie and Julia. Once the will is read, the half-sisters realize they will be separated with one moving to San Francisco and one to a town in Virginia. The girls try to navigate their ways through the loss of their parents and each other while trying to define themselves as individuals. Resentment and anger threaten to tear them apart until a momentous event changes everything.

This book about the complicated love between two sisters as they deal with their shared gried had all the makings of a great story. But it wasn't. There was just something missing. The story is told from Ruthie's perspective and I think this was a problem because the reader never really gets to understand Julia's side of the story. I thought White did an excellent job describing the complexities of teenage life. Especially in the face of grief. But as the girls entered adulthood, the story seemed to fall apart. I didn't particularly care for any of the characters and the ending felt rushed and unfinished. The author introduced a really interesting plot development surrounding the girls' mother at the end of the book but then dropped it for something much less interesting and much more contrived. A real disappointment.

BOTTOM LINE: Not recommended. A lot of unfulfilled potential here. This subject matter has been covered much more effectively by other authors.
Profile Image for Sara Edgell.
24 reviews1 follower
September 5, 2014
This was an intriguing book in the beginning... until the shift was made into the last phase of Ruthie's life. I was very disappointed in how the book ended, although, I do appreciate the story that the author is telling. The complexities of the sisters' individual lives on top of a strained, broken sisterly relationship makes for a great story. I was interested, invested. Clearly there needed to be some sort of closure, some sort of fix for the pair. Ruthie and Julia's relationship was so dynamic that it was uncomfortable (in a compelling way) to read along as they fell apart instead of fuse closer together. What the writer was ultimately focused on was mending the relationship between the sisters, not the overall story. Unfortunately, this reader was hoping that the overall story would be the primary focus and that the relationship repair would be the added bonus, the sugar on top if you will. Furthermore, I have a serious aversion to the "name dropping" effect that contemporary novelists have been using with recent and current events. For me, and this is only my opinion, the incorporation of Bush and Obama, 9/11, even Captain Sully was just a bit too much. Similar to dropping names, it's as if these writers are just trying too hard. I find it unoriginal and somewhat dull. The story would have been much more appealing and satisfying without the tie ins, although, I completely comprehend the symbolism and theme (traumatic events, plane crashes, and death). In the end, the book fell flat and left me disappointed, which isa rare occurrence for this modern lit lover.
Profile Image for Miki Garrison.
43 reviews7 followers
May 7, 2010
I tremendously enjoyed this book. The story of the two half-sisters from Atlanta who are separated after their parents' death in a plane crash -- Julia to her father and "evil stepmother" in small-town Virginia, and Ruthie to her aunt and uncle in San Francisco -- builds an incredibly vivid picture of the evolving relationship between the girls as their lives are changed by the events around them and they grow into young adulthood.

I will say that I found the back-cover copy (which is also the "product description" above) to be a little on the misleading side, however. This is a book of slow and steady crescendos and rests -- there aren't really any "shocking" moments, nothing that you don't already see coming pages in advance, nothing that turns the book on its ear. And I don't say that as a bad thing -- I think the book is amazing as it is, and the story would be cheapened by trying to make some of the twists sharper than they really are. So it's odd to me that the publisher decided to describe the book this way.

There's also something about the overall tenor of this book that really reminded me of the 1995 movie "Now and Then" (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114011/) -- not that there are any similarities in plot or characters, but I can definitely see them appealing to the same audiences. So if you loved that movie, definitely grab this book.
Profile Image for Judy Collins.
2,685 reviews377 followers
June 18, 2019
This was my first book by Susan Rebecca White! I enjoyed, as always reading about the South since a native, having lived in Atlanta for many years. I look forward to White's new book, A Place at the Table. Two half-sisters from Atlanta who are separated after their parents’ death in a plane crash, having lived with other relatives. If you have a sister, you will love it!

For more than ten years, Naomi and Phil Harrison enjoyed a marriage of heady romance, tempered only by the needs of their children. But on a vacation alone, the couple perishes in a flight over the Grand Canyon.

After the funeral, their daughters, Ruthie and Julia, are shocked by the provisions in their will. Spanning nearly two decades, the sisters' journeys take them from their familiar home in Atlanta to sophisticated bohemian San Francisco, a mountain town in Virginia, the campus of Berkeley, and lofts in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

As they heal from loss, search for love, and begin careers, their sisterhood, once an oasis, becomes complicated by resentment, anger, and jealousy. It seems as though the echoes of their parents' deaths will never stop reverberating--until another shocking accident changes everything once again.
158 reviews
July 11, 2011
There's an old rule in writing: the characters, especially the protagonist, have to want something. I didn't know what these sisters wanted. Yes, they had something terrible happen to them with the death of their parents and their subsequent separation. But the story just felt like it was going through the motions. I never connected with either sister and certainly didn't empathize with them. I think that maybe if the story had focused on one period of the sisters' lives (either the immediate aftermath or looking back as adults) instead of spanning 10+ years it would have been more engaging. There were also a few things that irritated me: the constant use of brand names, the misuse of the word "riff," and the coincidental connections to the 9/11 bombing and the Hudson River airplane landing. The fact that these two noteworthy events had a place in this book but the Centennial Park bombing in Atlanta did not was puzzling, to say the least.
Profile Image for Deanne.
87 reviews
March 29, 2011
"A Soft Place to Land" is not one of those books that will stay on my mind for long after finishing, but I enjoyed reading it. I found it to be a very realistic portrayal of the relationship between two sisters, Ruthie and Julia, who tragically lose their parents at a young age. The book follows the girls from childhood into adulthood and shows how their experiences over the years change them as well as change their relationship with one another. I thought the author did an excellent job of character development with Ruthie and Julia, but found the rest of the characters to be pretty flat. Of course, the two main characters were only ones who really mattered to the story itself, so I didn't really have a problem with it. The story was touching and would probably be most appreciated by readers who have sisters of their own.
4 reviews
September 28, 2011
Read this book with the Bookclub. It was Ok. I felt like the writer did not have an outline for the finale of the book, wrote to the point of the characters in college and then made up the rest of it in a big hurry to finish. It builds and builds and builds and then it is over. If there was a climax, it was anti-climatic and the resolution was weak. I found the adult (post college) Ruthie one dimensional and the post college Gabe as sad glimmer of what was the best character in the book. The early to mid parts of the book were very interesting and I was compelled to keep reading. I am not inclined, at all, to pick up another book by this writer nor would I read a sequel should she write one.
Profile Image for Melissa.
290 reviews2 followers
May 5, 2011
What I learned this week:
1. Everyone's out to make money. So even if the person selling you a book at a yard sale for a quarter will lie to you and tell you how great it is.
2. When traveling, bring more than one book, especially if you haven't started one yet. Nothing sucks more than reading a book you don't like because it's the only one you have.
3. Even if you're not afraid to fly, don't read about about a plane crash on a plane.

Didn't really enjoy this book. It had a lot of potential, but all of the characters were so one-dimensional that you didn't care about any of them.
Profile Image for Kim.
25 reviews1 follower
April 28, 2010
Ok, so I bought this book at Target yesterday and I finished it tonight. No, I didn't ignore my kids for 2 days...I really liked this book....a lot. The ending was better than expected and made me tear up...I recommend this book...I don't think you'll be disappointed!

As a side note, I didn't and still don't like the title of the book and almost didn't buy it because of the title....never judge a book by it's cover, right?
3 reviews1 follower
March 27, 2019
I kept trying to like it, trying to appreciate the story. Right up to the very end, which was disappointing. I mean, ARE YOU KIDDING ME? At least give us something exciting in the whole damn book, in the letters from Naomi after all those years. But no, nothing. Just like the rest of the book, just barely giving me enough to keep reading, and forever being disappointed.
Profile Image for Amber.
43 reviews
January 25, 2019
I was fairly disappointed in this book. It was decent enough that I kept with it to see how it would play out, but it never seemed to get off the ground for me. I felt like the characters never really pulled me in enough and it always felt like something was missing. One of my biggest issues with the book was that so many controversial topics were brought in that it felt a bit overwhelming. A couple topics might have added to the overall plot, but I felt like too many just weighted down what could have been a great story line. I also felt like the book skipped around a lot, which just made it feel as if there were a lot of holes in the story. Additionally, many of those holes were never explained by the end of the book. I wouldn't recommend this one unless you just need something to read and have run out of other ideas.
Profile Image for L T.
258 reviews1 follower
August 16, 2020
Hmmmm.. well its about 2 sisters who lose their parents to a terrible plane accident. the sisters are separated, one going to live with her biological dad and stepmom in Virginia, the other to live with an aunt and uncle in San Francisco. One is a goody 2 shoes type, and the other is rebellious. The book spends a great deal of time with the sisters trying to imagine their parents' last moments. the sisters don't meet up again until a year later and Julia, the rebellious one, makes things worse for herself. The development of the other sister Ruthie is stronger and you see how she begins to love her new surroundings. Julia seems to determined to not like her new stepmom, but her character is not well developed at all. The ending left me flat- the love-hate relationship between the sister is once again resolved, but I'm sure it wont last.
Profile Image for Sarah Piper.
1,362 reviews8 followers
May 29, 2017
Really good ... but not quite what I was expecting from the summary.

I think I related to a lot of the feelings and reactions from losing my own mother and the strange relationship with my half-brothers that resulted in the aftermath. We certainly all went our separate ways and yet deep down always know that you're there for family.

Interesting take on the relationship and love of siblings.

Only wish it would have ended with Ruthie telling her sister or Gabe that she was ready to start a family of her own. In my world ... that's what happens.
85 reviews2 followers
September 13, 2022
nicely crafted but no redeeming value It will go in rubbish bin rather than take to used bookstore box
Profile Image for Paul Pessolano.
1,348 reviews39 followers
January 31, 2011
Susan Rebecca White is a native Atlantan and teaches writing at Emory University. Last year she authored the novel "Bound South" which has received literary acclaim. It was a novel based in Atlanta that gave a true look at Atlanta as it gained status as a major city in the late 1990's.

"a soft place to land" also has its beginnings in Atlanta, moving to San Francisco, and returning to Atlanta.

Ruthie and Julia are sisters growing up in the Buckhead section of Atlanta. They are going to private school and want very little in life. Julie is very intelligent but has a wild streak in her that leads her to drug and alcohol use, and promiscuity. Ruthie is not so smart but has common sense and is instrumental in helping keep Julie out of trouble.

Life takes a tragic turn when their parents are killed in an airplane crash. Julie is sent to live with her biological father in rural Georgia and Ruthie is sent to live with an Aunt and Uncle in San Francisco.

The reader sees the two growing up in two totally different worlds and falling apart from each other.

Ruthie finds true love in a former Atlantan and Julie authors a bestselling book that is memoir of her and Ruthie's life. The memoir, which conftains information about Ruthie that could be detremental, and may cause a seperation between Ruthie and her new found love. This, of course, causes an even greater seperation between Ruthie and her sister.

The hate, love relationship between Ruthie and Julia comes to a conclusion when another tragic air accident causes them to face the resentment, anger, and jealousy that have been a large part of their lives.

A wonderful story made more wonderful in that fact that those of us who live in the Atlanta area can relate to the locale.
Profile Image for Lori.
273 reviews
January 4, 2013
I liked this novel a lot but I can't give it more than 3 stars because it fell apart during part III and never recovered its initial steam.

I still couldn't put it down. She's a lovely story and it's a captivating tale of two siblings who suffer a traumatic indicent that leaves them in very different places physically, emotionally, and mentally.

From the get go I loved both Ruthie and Julia and saw them as dual narrators, even if Ruthie got more talk time. However, that completely deteriorated as the novel unfolded and it soon became Ruthie's story and not Julia's story at all. From this point the girls become stereotypical one-dimensional characters who once so rich in their development turn into strangers the reader doesn't know.

I loved Ruthie as a child and loathed her as an adult. I found it hard to have sympathy for her even though the author tried very hard to explain to us why Ruthie became a self-centered, hard and judgemental woman by age 28 even though she was the sister who was given a soft place to land. I didn't buy it. Her abortion lent nothing to the story. Julia fell off the face of the planet and yet somehow retained a loving compassion for a little sister who basically hated her and blamed her for the death of their parents?

These characters were so strong and White did an amazing job of turning both Atlanta and San Francisco into characters in their own right, but there was too much imbalance. She should have kept the story flowing instead of jumping ahead to the future.

Criticisms aside, I really enjoyed it and could not put it down. I would definitely recommend it.
Profile Image for Diane.
1,093 reviews22 followers
May 6, 2010
I thought the premise of the book was interesting -- two sisters lose both parents in a plane crash and, by the terms of their parents' will, are each to go live with different relatives far away from each other. The sisters are close, and being away from each other is awful. The situations in which they are brought up are so different that, when they do get to see each other, they have a hard time relating and their relationship begins to unravel.

I had many problems with this book. First, I hated virtually every character (except the aunt and uncle). The younger sister was so snobbish and judgmental, I absolutely couldn't empathize with her. The older sister was portrayed as the rebel and I never got any sense of her feelings at all. Gabe was an ass. Next, I didn't feel the author was able to bring much emotion to the story at all. Part of that was the problem with how the characters were portrayed. This should have been an emotional story. It didn't even seem like the girls were that devastated by their parents' death. Where was the effort to make the relationship with the sisters work? They just went on with their separate lives. I didn't feel it. Finally, the ending was so contrived. I didn't get the sense that anyone learned anything.

Not sure why I'm giving this 3 stars. Maybe I'm making it sound worse that it was. Not horrible, but could have been so much better.
Profile Image for Susy.
584 reviews5 followers
October 4, 2011
I picked up this book as a break from my still unfinished novel of the summer (almost 1000 pages into a 1500 page book) because I needed a quick read. It didn't disappoint. The story is the bond of sisters who by virtue of their parents accidental death - not a spoiler, it's on the back jacket - are sent to live with different relatives because of a poorly thought out will. The novel takes them from the first days after they learn about their parents where they grieve & console each other through almost two decades as they mature & distance and become frustrated by each other's lives. Both the events of Sept. 11 and the Miracle on the Hudson figure in each girl's personal growth and while this could have been a cheesy attempt at pathos by the author, it worked. As a person who lost just one parent at a young age, stories such as these appeal to me. They are reminders that I'm not the only one to have such depth of emotion about loss. And what I learned is that if at all possible parents should never, ever split up their children when thinking about a worst case scenario such as tandem death.
Profile Image for Debbie.
946 reviews
May 13, 2010
Sisters...you love them, you hate them, and then you love them again...that's the way it seems to go as you grow up. Once you're all grown, you just love each other, and come to realize they are some of the best friends you'll ever have (in my opinion at least!)

Sisters Julia and Ruthie love the life they lead in Atlanta with their parents Naomi and Phil Harrison. They are half-sisters, sharing the same mother, but different fathers. Their world dissolves around them when their parents are killed in a private plane over the Grand Canyon. What is more devastating to them is the provision in their parent's will as to where the sisters are to go. Julia is sent to a mountain town in Virginia to live with her dad and step-mom while Ruthie is moved to San Francisco to live with an aunt and uncle. Their lives are no longer so intertwined and the differences and jealousies that surface are enough to destroy the closeness they once felt.

Things change more than 20 years later, due to an accident that Julia survives.
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