Rose Asbury is a bitter woman—and she has a right to be. Within the space of five years, she’s lost not only her beloved husband, but also her sister, Mary. Her children have moved away, and because she doesn’t want to be a bother or appear to be interfering in their lives, she’s slowly cut them off, as well as most of her acquaintances, except for her best friend, Louise, who continually nags her to “get out and meet people.” Rose doesn’t want to meet people; she just wants to stay within the familiar, comforting surroundings of her home and its memories but with Christmas rapidly approaching, she finds even those memories are going sour as they bring up the nostalgia of bygone holidays and what she has now lost.
Stephen Daniels is Rose’s new neighbor. Like Rose, he’s lost his spouse also but in Stephen’s case, he’s adjusted much better. He’s kept in touch with his friends, and he’s now raising his granddaughter Sarah while her mother and father, both in the Army Reserves, are deployed in Iraq. He’s seen Rose, tried to talk to her, but she always brushes him off, hurrying away and locking herself in the house. Stephen, however, isn’t one to be stymied by being snubbed. He’s sensed a response in Rose—very faint, but it’s there—and he’s determined to get to know the lady better.
Secretly, Rose admits she should stop living in the past, but it’s so much safer…and then, she starts seeing and hearing her sister Mary—or thinks she does—chiding her and telling her she has to make a decision about her future life. Or is it simply her own conscience talking?
Stephen’s granddaughter, Sarah, brings the two together. When she and her friends build a snowman in Rose’s yard, bombard her front porch with snowballs and then run away, Rose complains to Stephen and they have their first conversation of more than two words. When Louise has a heart attack, and Rose returns from the hospital to find her home vandalized, that act is the catalyst bringing the two together. Stephen steps in, offering to help, becoming a figure of gentle, silent strength. He’s there for Rose when she needs him, and soon, she’s coming to depend on him, opening up her heart to accept this quiet man into her life.
Now that Rose has decided to enter the world again, all doesn’t always go smoothly, however. Stephen’s old girlfriend appears, causing Rose to suddenly doubt his interest in her and as she’s recovering from that, her son-in-law needs emergency surgery and her daughter asks her to be there. Rose doesn’t want to leave but she’s divorced herself from her family long enough, and now that they’ve back in her life, how can she say no? She can’t and her trip to Oregon to be by her daughter’s side turned out to be a surprise in more ways than one, and decides the course of her future relationship with Stephen.
Roseanne Dowell’s Time to Live Again is a quiet story—the most violent thing that happens is the ransacking of Rose’s home and that’s not actually described except in the disaster she finds when she opens the front door. It’s a gentle, sweet tale of two mature people who’ve lost their mates and how each copes with that tragedy, and what happens when they reach out to each other. My only complaint was that in the beginning, Stephen referred to Rose as an “old woman” and I found that a little disconcerting because I’ve found that people in a certain age group don’t refer to each other as “old.” That made me think at first that Stephen was younger than she instead of a contemporary. That aside, it’s definitely a Feel Good story, and if you’re the least bit empathetic, the ending will leave a tear in your eye, and a lesson for all of us, no matter what our ages.