A Clean Sweep

by Audrey Davis


Clean Sweep: Emily, a widow in her early 50s, seems quite content with her life until, as a result of a blocked chimney, discovers that it is possible to fall in love again. Her daughter, Tabitha, is stuck in an unhappy relationship. Her sister, Celeste, seems to have everything – a beautiful home, a loving husband, plenty of money. But there is a secret her husband is not sharing. Meryl, Tabitha’s boss, is unlucky in love, unable to find a decent man. Susan, a member of Emily’s book club, is truly unhappy. Overweight, ill, and depressed, she is lonely and believes herself unworthy of love or friendship. The lives of these five women intersect and all of them will face changes they never expected.

Theme of the Book

This is an optimistic story in which true love finds each and every one of the characters. Ms. Davis writes that it is never too late to find love in one’s life and that love can come from the most surprising situations.

What I Liked About the Story

The women in A Clean Sweep are all women the reader either already knows or would like to know.

I first realized that I would love Emily when the story opens with her bemoaning the number of grammar and spelling errors she finds in written English. At that point, I knew Emily was a kindred spirit. Although Emily is kind and generous, she is a bit reserved, not socializing much unless it is with her book club. She seems satisfied with her life though not terribly happy. At this point, the reader understand that Emily is the portrait of a normal, middle-class and middle-aged woman.

Tabitha, on the other hand, seems scattered but, in fact, she has her own goals in life. We can almost hear Emily moan that Tabitha is wasting her time with her current relationship and job, but, being a model mother, Emily does not nag.

Celeste seems to have it all. She has money, a devoted husband, and an ideal life. But beneath the surface, Celeste is drawn as a self-centered character ready to sacrifice for her own satisfaction.

The most fully-developed character in the novel is Susan. The reader can sense Susan’s despair over her weight and health issues and must feel sympathy for her total lack of self-confidence. Susan’s isolation is the low point in an otherwise cheerful narrative.

The second positive element in the novel is Ms. Davis’s dry sense of humor. The reader cannot help but laugh out loud at some of the inner dialogue of Ms. Davis’s characters. Their humor is self-deprecating and never at the expense of others.

What I Didn’t Like About the Story

Although the female characters are well defined and develop into people the reader would like to know, the male characters are a bit over the top. Tom and Michael, at least, have conflict and some depth to their characters while Joe, Adam, and Steve are truly the princes in the fairy tale. Do these men have no negative qualities at all? They seem to be every woman’s fantasy: strong, good-looking, generous, humorous, and kind. There’s certainly nothing wrong with a man like that – if they exist – but it would have been nice to see a bit of realism along with the fantasy.

Final Say

A Clean Sweep is a delightful fairy tale in which all the characters live happily ever after. Ms. Davis’s dry humor saves the book from being sappily sweet and makes the story a pleasant, easy read. Fans of contemporary romance should love this book. I found it enjoyable and a treat for a rainy afternoon.

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