Review: Shake Down the Stars by Renee Swindle

8th August 2013

pg1*This book was sent to me by the author Renee Swindle in exchange for an honest review.

It’s been five years since Piper Nelson’s daughter died, but she’s coping worse than ever. Her mother and sister are so absorbed in the sister’s celebrity wedding, they don’t have time to notice Piper’s pain. Her ex husband has moved on, and the loss seems to sever her last connection to her daughter, adding to her sorrow.

Her job as a high school teacher suffers as Piper begins drinking more and more to stave off the pain. And like many addicts, she’s hurt too many people by the time she reaches the end of her descent to know where to turn. Help comes in the unlikely form of Selwyn, whom Piper meets at a disastrous engagement party for her sister and her sister’s pro football fiance. Not put off by Piper’s anger and addiction, he instead offers her support and friendship.

She knows she needs to change, but how do you move on from such a loss? How do you shut it away when others are ready to pass over it?

Though Shake Down the Stars could easily have been a depressing or morbid book, Renee Swindle writes a book that feels incredibly realistic and respectful. Addiction is never demonized but written about with understanding and empathy. Swindle also respects that loss looks different to different people and that the reactions to death can range as widely as the people that death affects. But Piper can’t see that in her grief, and the family dynamics and her eventual recognition of them is just as pivotal to her story.

Piper learns to find joy and laughter again through unexpected relationships, including other addicts who walk the same road she does. Yet never does Swindle brush over Piper’s pain, making for a book that can cause laughter and tears sometimes on the same page.

ZZ Packer, author of Drinking Coffee Elsewhere says it best, calling Shake Down the Stars “a rich, savvy exploration of the many kinds of love, loss, and dysfunction that can unearth us or save us, bedevil us or deliver us.”

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  • I’m starting to hear a lot about this book, but I think your review has made me want to read it. I was afraid that it would be too depressing, but now I’m willing to give it a shot. Thanks!

    • I promise it isn’t. NicoleBo and I talked about it last week. It is one of the most genuine books I’ve read, and just like life, sometimes even in the midst of something awful, there are moments of joy and hilarity. It’s rare that I say this, but I loved this book.

  • Ti Reed

    I must say, you made this one sound pretty darn good. I just started to see it making the rounds but yours is the first review I’ve read. I am okay with depressing story lines, but I am glad that this one wasn’t one. Sounds like a gem.

    • Then I definitely did my job. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Sometimes it’s so difficult to get across how much you enjoyed a book (and I personally can’t stand using rating systems). So it’s nice to know that’s what you got from it.

  • This is the first I’ve heard of this one. I’ll have to check it out!

  • Ooooh this actually sounds really interesting, and like a book I would love to read. Thanks for sharing!!!

    -Rebecca @ Love at First Book

  • This sounds like something I might want to try. Over the past 7 or 8 years, I’ve gravitated toward books dealing with grief and while some might find them morbid or depressing, I find some comfort in an author’s depiction of how one handles the loss of a loved one. I notice you tagged it with domestic violence, but I didn’t see any mention of that in your post. Was that the cause of Piper’s daughter’s death?

    • renee

      I’m just seeing this. The daughter died in a car accident several years before the start of the novel. There’s a very brief scene of domestic violence later in the book. I’m making it sound far more intense than it is! Thank you for asking. ๐Ÿ™‚ -Renee S.