REVIEW: Coming Home to You by Rebecca Crowley
Midwife Mabel Antonoff is used to catching babies at short notice—just not in a busy hardware store, and definitely not alongside her high school ex. She could’ve happily gone another decade without seeing Sam Strauss, but she needs a pair of hands, and his are steady. As the ambulance leaves and the local media closes in, Mabel realizes they’re going viral—and it’s the perfect opportunity to promote her midwifery program.
Sam’s international aid career took him to the most dangerous places in the world, but he was only a block from his D.C. apartment when a distracted driver grounded his travels. Injured and off-balance, he retreats to his hometown to help sell his grandparents’ house. He wants silence and solitude—not a frenzied media tour, and absolutely not an extra minute with the ex-girlfriend who stirs up long-buried regrets.
Sam owes her, and Mabel’s determined to use their newfound fame for good—even if it means fueling speculation about their relationship. But as Rosh Hashanah nears, Mabel begins to wonder if it’s bad luck to start the new year on false pretenses…
Dear Ms. Crowley,
Last year I read the first book in the Orchard Hill and meant to be on the lookout for the next one set during Passover. Obviously I messed that up but I mean to go back and pick it up at some time.
Mabel Antonoff has overcome a childhood filled with drama to become a passionate midwife and advocate for choices for those giving birth. She gets a chance to demonstrate this in the local hardware store when a woman there (40 weeks 3 days, second birth, no issues with the first one) goes into labor. Why was a pregnant woman in the hardware store? Because her husband thought walking (through it) might induce her labor. Jumping in to help, Mabel issues calm commands before being stunned to see that the man she just told to block off (the plumbing supply) aisle 12 is none other than Sam Strauss – the person who broke her heart twelve years ago.
Sam is impressed by Mabel’s competence but less than happy when they walk outside the store to discover cell phones recording them and local news teams shoving microphones at them. Mabel cheerfully describes what happened, shills for her midwife clinic at the local hospital, and then announces that Sam is her ex-boyfriend. Sensing a story, the media and social media swarm. Mabel and Sam have “gone viral.”
Inundated by requests for interviews, Sam wants nothing to do with it. He’s just in town to fix up and list his grandparent’s home for sale. Or that’s what he tells himself but really he’s flailing a bit after a bad accident showed him how alone he is in the world and shook his confidence in himself. Mabel senses an opportunity to get more publicity for expanding midwife services beyond the trendy and informs Sam that He Owes Her and she’s cashing in on it. With the media sniffing around and wanting a possible long lost love reconciliation, Sam and Mabel have to negotiate their painful past and decide what their future – if any – will be.
The set up for what ended Mabel and Sam’s relationship is a bit convoluted and stretches back a generation to another broken relationship. But what Sam did calls for some out-and-out redemption and apologies. He hurt Mabel badly. True, he had a less than wonderful parental example of married life but it was his father’s plea that he not ruin Mabel’s life the way his father had ruined Sams mother’s life (yes, it’s complicated) that got Sam thinking that maybe it was better that he break things off with Mabel and, indeed, with all their circle of friends. Revisiting this years later, Sam can acknowledge that he was selfish in leaving but also knows that he wasn’t in a good space and probably would have not been able to maintain a long distance relationship. Was his dad correct? Maybe, maybe not and Sam needs to do some real soul searching before his next move.
Huzzah that Mabel has picked up the pieces, shrugged off the murmurs and sideways glances about her morals, and got on with her life. She’s found her bliss, maintained her friendships (something Sam has let totally slide), dated, and married. So … that ended in divorce but she is proud of the fact that she hasn’t wasted twelve years mooning over Sam. She coolly tells him he’s going to help her and doesn’t fall in a puddle of need or lust at his feet. Then she starts to wonder. She wants a man who will walk towards her and not run away as so many men have done in her life. But a short term fling with a guy who still revs her motor even though she knows he’s going to go? Maybe.
Sam knows he did wrong and needs to make amends and then he does so. He owns his past mistakes – to himself, to Mabel, and publicly at their synagogue during Erev Rosh Hashanah. He faces their friend circle, admits his past shittiness in ghosting them and for hurting Mabel. Sam stepped up and I, along with the friend circle, was impressed.
But what now? Sam loves his career working for an international non-profit. He’s going to try and do a better job keeping up with everyone but Mabel knows he’s leaving town and she’s tired of falling for men who end up leaving.The final part of the book occurs at the end of Yom Kippur which makes sense. Things got a little drawn out but with this much baggage between them, I think that Sam and Mabel both, separately, needed to examine their lives, their pasts, and come to grips with what they could change and what they wanted moving forward. There’s a wonderful, and at times funny, talk that Sam and Jonah (hero of “Shine a Light”) have while precariously balanced on the tiny furniture of the children’s room at the shul. Jonah might still not want to follow in his Rabbi father’s footsteps but he is a great counselor.
The end of the book was what I needed to see – that Sam and Mabel had seriously thought things through and weren’t just acting on happy hormones or letting the spur of the moment carry them away. One choice Mabel makes struck me as odd given all she was working towards over the course of the book. But romantically they are centered and sure of themselves both apart and together. B