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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
In the Context of Love
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on September 12, 2015
This novel loosely takes the form of a letter to a first love from the perspective of many years later. The main character has a story to tell, and she's most interested in sharing it with the love of her life, who is also the one that got away. After a brief intense high school romance, scandal and circumstances tear these two apart and she spends years trying to recover from the split and another family betrayal. A completely unexpected turn in this good-girl into someone even she doesn't recognize lead to bad choices and consequences she could not have foreseen. How she is able to finally stand tall again comes out in her story to the lost love. Sienkiewicz is a poet and it shows in the language, which is exquisite and careful but never weighs down the plot, which carried me through to the end in one reading. I couldn't put it down, couldn't wait to see how the author would resolve this deep heartache. I was not disappointed. This moving story of fated soul mates and the author's unique narrative voice make this book one not to be missed.
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on December 12, 2017
Maya Angelou says in her novel, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings that "there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." Such a story informs the life of Angelica, the main character in this great read by Linda Sienkiewicz, In The Context of Love. A rich roster of people are introduced to us by Angelica as she tells her life story. She speaks directly to her first high school love, the Hungarian heart-throb, Joe Vadas, telling him the tale of her life and what follows after they are both suspended from school. In rich prose, often touched by poetic style, the author unfolds the life of two generations of Angelica's dysfunctional family. In today's charged climate of the "Me, too" women, the whistleblowers, recently named Persons of the Year by Time Magazine, this novel is really relevant. In one scene, Angelica's mother laments:
Oh, laws. Yes. Laws. Lot of good they do. It always comes down to the woman's word against the man's. They'll ask you what you were doing, what you were wearing, if you flirted, if you said no when you really meant yes, why you didn't fight harder, why don't you have bruises. You had to get shot or stabbed for anyone to believe you. Maybe it would have been better if he had strangled me like he said he would. All this talk about shame and disgrace, like it was my fault, like I asked for it. I didn't ask for it! (p.83)
Angelica describes for us her wreckage of a life as she careens from disaster to disaster into a destructive marriage with Gavin. She has two children, Michelle and Jude and eventually almost haphazardly finds herself redemption through work at a help center for women. In a parallel story we see her mother finally reveal her own truth and begin the recovery from her caged years.
This is an important story for our current days of reckoning. For all the women on their journeys to truth, this is a book for you.
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on October 11, 2015
"This is what happened after you left without a word." In the Context of Love is written as a one-sided conversation with Angelica's first love, who, fifteen years later, had become "the scapegoat for everything that had gone wrong in the last fifteen years."

The prose is beautiful, even when the action is gritty. She leads the reader unflinchingly through first love, and the joy, lust, and pain that left a young girl's life permanently altered.

"Your kisses tasted like freedom."
"I wanted to be the opposite of my mother... I was sure I knew more about sex than she did."

Angelica's mother, once nurturing, turns overprotective and obsessive as her daughter begins to grow up. Angelica clashes with her mother, unable to understand that the overprotective behavior is rooted in secrets so deep and so explosive that they will eventually fracture the family.

Angelica's downward spiral is heart-wrenching; you'd step in and save her from her self-destructive behavior if you could--but she's got to find her own way to cope with the wreckage of her life. The book was impossible to put down. Highly recommend!
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on November 23, 2017
The first scene tells us so much.
In Linda Sienkiewicz’s novel, In the Context of Love, in the very first scene a woman and her two children visit the husband-father in prison. The encounter is shot through with awkwardness: bewildered children, humiliated wife, appalling institutional sterility. “The four of us sat at a metal table,” the narrator, Angelica Lowsley, observes, “falling into the same seating arrangement we used to take at the dinner table.” Gavin, the husband, tries to make small talk, tries to connect with his children, while Angelica tries to control her rage at her husband, at the situation, at what her life has become. This is a context of love. Rock bottom.
In the next scene Angelica begins the story of how her life fell apart. She flashes back to her teen years, a time of innocence with a mother who radiates tension, terrified of men and life; a harridan grandmother, and a father who loves his daughter and seems to accept, just barely, an imperfect situation. She says of her parents’ wedding photo, “The two of them don’t look particularly close, much less in love.” This also is a context of love.
The discovery of a family secret will blow this context to bits.
And Angelica’s coming of age story will proceed. More contexts of love. In the backseat of a car behind a dumpster, in a school storeroom: loss of innocence happens. Losses accumulate, add up to less and less. In a series of missteps and mistakes that lead from Joe, the idealized focus of her adolescent love and sexual passion, to Gavin, with whom she takes revenge on her mother and on herself, Angelica’s life unravels. Experience seems synonymous with loss.
Again, the first scene tell us so much. Sienkiewicz’s gift for descriptive detail is immediately on display. “The damage he’d caused was a clear and tangible as the waxed floor and steel bars.” Again and again, the reader will be delighted by flashes of light on the page, details that capture character, setting, and Angelica’s emotional landscape. In the tense moments after discovering the family secret, Angelica looks upon her grandmother, “her hands moving like small rodents in the pockets of her house dress.” Adding, “She knew everything.” The next morning Angelica awakens to a different world: “I wouldn’t have been surprised if I had opened my curtains to an ash-filled sky, charred houses, trees burned to stubs, the ground still smoking.” The psychological fallout of sudden knowledge is captured in this extraordinary passage, part of a dream sequence:

“I walk along a highway in the dark, picking up dead women lying on the side of the road and bagging them the way you’d bag soda pop cans…The grass turns turns dark and slick, and the stench of rot worsens. I stumble over something, a woman with thin skin, like film on scalded milk, and arms and legs as spindly a crib rails. I reach down and take her arm, and when her body turns, I see it’s my mother.”

Also in that first scene a reader will notice the recurring “you” in the story. At various points in the story Angelica reminds the reader of her first love. This story is for the reader, yes, but even more so, it is for him. “For whatever reason, I thought of you.” “That’s the part of the story you don’t know.” “I wanted someone to rattle me, inundate me, swallow me whole like Jonah. I wanted to forget you, and everything else that had gone wrong.” It’s a brilliant plot device, driving the reader forward. Will this Joe, this idealized character who should figure in the context of love, will he return? Will Angelica Lowsley rebound from rock bottom, from the low points in her life, and redeem herself? Can love itself be redeemed? There’s no setting this book aside until those questions have answers.
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on September 22, 2015
The story had me interested on page one, hooked by page two. I was helpless to resist. It heaved me in and yanked me forward. Sweet. Compelling. Rough. Raw. It’s the best kind of love story, an honest one. The details about the 70’s were so rich and evocative at points I forgot what decade I lived in. Love. Love. Love. In any context.
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on October 31, 2015
I'm generally not a fan of romance novels, but this one had a solid plot and good characters--I especially liked the protagonist's children and father, they are minor players in the story, but they were well done. Linda writes dialogue well and with authenticity--whether it be the protagonist as a girl or a woman, she's consistent and real.

There are some pretty brutal twists in her books--domestic violence is a thread that goes throughout it. I think her treatment of the topic helps the reader understand how self-image and self-esteem play into how women fall into violent relationships.

There are some interesting twists to her plot--which makes it a little unpredictable and more compelling to read.
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on October 26, 2015
Linda Sienkiewicz has written a moving and poignant novel that follows a young girl's story of love and pain and discovery. In In The Context of Love, Sienkiewicz does a great job of assuring that her audience will empathize completely with the heroine Angelique as the young girl finds herself in the dizzying grip of teenage love with a boy of whom her parents do not approve. Siemkiewicz does not shy away from the sexual awakening of these two young lovers and the pain that their separation brings. We travel with Angelique through her unsatisfying home life to her own disquieting marriage; Sienkiewicz never lets the tension and interest wane. I recommend In the Contest of Love. It's a great read and a book that will keep you turning the page to see what happens next.
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on January 22, 2016
In this coming of age story about a woman who navigates the circuitous path of love, sex, heartbreak and betrayal, the author inhabits her protagonist with poetry, insight and great attention to detail. Angelica shares her journey addressing Joe, her one true love, even when he’s no longer there. What she has learned from him about love, becomes an inner compass that guides her into unexpected and sometimes disturbing territory, but always with a flicker of hope.
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on November 5, 2015
What a LOVELY read! So well-crafted. So well-written. So enjoyable. Those of us who came of age in the 70's, 80's, early 90's, made some mistakes. Some of us big mistakes! Here's a thoughtful look at a young woman who moves through true love, shocking family secrets, getting lost, choosing the wrong man and yet ending up OK, after everything. (I don't know about you but I've been there!) And in the end....well the end is just I won't spoil it for you.
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on November 24, 2015
Knowing Linda Sienkiewicz as a gifted poet, I expected her first novel to be fluid, moving, and have depth. I was not disappointed! We've all lived "in the context" of some kind of love, haven't we? I was most taken by the perspective - a bit surprising and yet so perfectly real for so many of us.
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