Who You Think I Am by Camille Laurens

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“Yes, that’s it, I’m no longer operational, I’ve blown a fuse, if you like, or blown a gasket, tripped a switch, and whee! I’ve spun out of control…”

Whoa, there are times when readers are mislead by interesting book cover art. Not so here! I started reading the first few pages annoyed at the mad ravings, the sentences that went on and on, manic even-but it fits and after that… gorgeous literary fiction! There is anger, passion, some mad musings and if there is a disorder for highlighting too much then I now have it. Maybe it’s because I am 41 that I related to the anger women feel in double standards, the hypocrisy of it all! Something happens when you are dismissed, overlooked, made to feel like an old cow set out to pasture. Yes, we all know the argument- you can only be made to feel that way if you allow it. Pfft!

We follow Claire Millecam as she creates a fake identity with a social media profile. Here she becomes young, beautiful Claire Attunes, not to win the affections of  Chris but initially to spy on her fickle lover Joe through Chris’s social media page. Claire tangles the web she weaved, now the spider sits in her web and Chris jumps right in but who is the real victim? Becoming young, she is now worthy of wooing, she is fascinating, fresh and new! It isn’t long before Claire is seduced by the connection she and Chris have made. Chris (whom she admits she was jealous of)  as Joe’s friend has usurped her place! He told her, unseen over the phone- “Go Die” loaded with spitting cruelty. “People throw themselves out of windows for less than that, don’t they? Plenty here would. They’ve been bashed around by so many words they start to wobble. Go die. Go Die. Other people’s words follow them around like hostile ghosts.” She is falling in love, but can it be love when she isn’t who she says she is? There is a violence in fiction, and the lies turn on her leading to fatal consequences or is it all deception? The reader is the fly, truth be told, because we are played with throughout! Just when we’ve dug our feet in and are on solid ground, the author erases everything, and the reader is left on thin air, just as Claire’s love is thin air.

I understand I am rambling, but I devoured this in two nights!  Claire argues with us and herself in the telling, she loses the plot, there is a comfort in insanity, an anchor in believing the horrible things that passed were done in the name of love. We deceive ourselves so dreadfully to live with  what befalls us in the name of love. It’s not just her head we climb into. Joe’s cold dismissive nature of women is sort of funny and delusional too. “My life- he seemed to think with one last pitying look at my apartment, my books, my face- my life wouldn’t mean much now that his was going to be so wonderful on the far side of the world. Being happy isn’t enough, you also need other people to be unhappy: it’s a recognized formula.” Is his vain attitude any worse than a woman’s clinging despair? Let it be said, there are plenty of female Joe’s in the world too. Off they go to better, shinier things and imagine you remain behind, like an unloved abandoned haunted house. Sometimes we take up that role, be if we’re smart, we shake it off and move on.

Reader, be warned, you are lied to.  But to get to the gooey center of truth requires sifting through the wreckage. This is one of the most unique literally fictions I’ve read in a long time. There is nothing I love more than dredging the dark corners of the mind, getting past the ‘social mask’ we wear, be it media or not. Even through Claire’s disastrous moments I found myself laughing. It’s hard to take a man seriously when he is acting belligerent and silly. Being a woman requires crocodile skin, if you make it past your ‘expiration date’ of say, 25- you must toughen up. Claire is becoming an angry victim , she isn’t playing nice and her deception is brutal too. As a woman I can well relate to the wide eyed, harsh reality many women face as they age in comparison to men. I also can see young women (not all, some) being just as ugly about older women, not realizing they are looking at themselves in the future. Don’t be put off by some self-indulgent whining, we all have a right to it now and then, so long as you don’t get swallowed up by it. But men and women of any age can relate to being ejected by a lover from your place in their life. So long sucker! Loved this and it is not a novel I can easily explain, I feel I am failing the author because it’s original and I can’t express myself clearly. The deceptive dark side of our online persona is exposed here but it is misleading to imagine the novel purely a social media story, because it’s not. There is a lot of fat to chew on when it comes to how we manipulate others and ourselves online, how we are vulnerable hidden behind a screen and yet the reader could ignore all that and still come away with one heck of a story about love and self-deception. Read it! Just read it for yourself!  “Every night I howl with terror at the thought of being a woman.” Claire has blown a fuse, no doubt about it!

Publication Date: March 28, 2o17

Other Press 

We Shall Not All Sleep by Estep Nagy

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“While sharing nothing else, lila thought, this man and her husband both spoke from a very hot core of certainty.” 

In We Shall Not All Sleep, there are two houses on the Seven Island- one for the  Hillsingers one for the Quicks’ and the two are rooted in each other. Despite sharing the island and marrying  wealthy sisters, Billy Quick and Jim Hillsinger keep the families apart. It is the anniversary of Hannah’s death, surviving sister Lila is finding herself drawn to Billy, and the children are running wild. “Billy Quick hated mysticism in all it’s many forms, but it was nevertheless true that, with Lila, only vanishing images were real.”   In a sweet conversation about what fairies eat, we come to see this ethereal side of Lila. “But what do fairies eat?” Isa said for the thousandth time. “Fairies eat the sunlight.” Lila said yet again.  Jim is a spy kicked out of the CIA, the reader is thrown between past and present slowly unraveling what has happened. With Hannah the author is touching on a time in history when suspicions of communism ran rampant. Jim was accused of treason, but must go quietly, though innocent. Hannah is guilty, but why? She is just a teacher. How did this happen? That Hannah had cut ties with the family, working as a teacher in a sort of ‘invisible’ manner may well have been the nail in her coffin. We find out what happened with Hannah in flashbacks through time.  Sometimes it made the reading difficult, just when I was immersed in the present it interrupted the flow. The ‘help’ is as much a part of the two island, juggling the difficulty of the families emotional distance. Beyond Lila, I was less interested in the adults and more in the children as they were beautiful creations. “Penny Quick asked questions, and she was watching all the time. The alert ones were the most dangerous, and Martha had never seen her before last week.” They are each full of character, some cruel, others sweet.

The dissension between Lila and Jim are in the banishment of their young son Catta to an island nearby. In this the reader is reminded of a time when sons were ‘toughened up’ and ‘mad a man’ by being thrown into situations beyond their age. A time when women didn’t have as much control in what their husbands decided for their children. Catta changes after the incident, but his future isn’t meant to become like the old generation of men before him. The strain between the families is a thick fog, misunderstanding, animosity, blame, desires… There are moments in this story that worked for me, but times when I got lost with the back and forth. It reads as a literary historical fiction, and the author doesn’t need to come out and state why there is tension, it’s alive in every conversation, comment, action of the characters. Wealth isn’t without a rotten core. I had a hard time connecting with the adults, the children were far more interesting to me. I was expecting more intrigue, or maybe I missed it. I liked it, but I didn’t fully follow what was happening and found myself going back to read again which is unusual for me.

Publication Date: July 4, 2017

Bloomsbury USA

Dare To Remember by Susanna Beard

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“Mum, please tell me. What happened? Why am I here?”

 Her mum glanced up at the nurse, who gave a small nod, a black curl escaping the cap pinned into her hair.”

“You were attacked, both of you, at the flat.”

“Attacked? By who?” A flush of panic ran through her. “What happened? Where’s Ali?”

“I’m so sorry, darling, but…”

What has happened is a slow unraveling as Lisa Fulbrook escapes to the solitude of the country to recover physically and mentally. The most important parts of her that she needs to recover are her memories of what happened to her best friend Ali. With flashbacks and terrors, she begins to wonder if she is to blame. Everything is a fog, and in this fog something doesn’t sit right with her. “She never went back to the flat. Her previous life was reduced to a small bag of belongings. Lisa shoved it, unopened, under the bed.”  

Lisa seems to be suffering a form of PTSD, but why have the memories escaped her? Just what did happen? Who was the man, the criminal and how did they know him? Rather than a shocking thriller, this is more of a psychological drama/trauma. It is a victim’s story of confronting their monster even if that monster is inside of them. We often imagine ourselves as the hero in any story we hear. Surely, if I were in said situation I would fight, I would conquer. Truth is far more sticky, in the moment of any crime animal instincts overrule our rational mind. Sometimes we are more coward than the courageous lion!

No one seems to blame Lisa, until she sees Ali’s brother. Why does he have so much animosity towards her? She was a victim, she has the wound to prove it, she lost so much blood. What does he know that she cannot recall? Memory is a slippery fish, just as she catches one the rest swim off into the murky depths of her soul.  The criminal begins to come into focus along with her own responsibility in the violent moment. Lisa has gone from being young, carefree, she and Ali flirting with life as any young woman does to living in a isolated place, keeping the world far from her.  How does one conquer themselves? How do you fight your own mind to reach truth?

The novel is quiet and disturbing. It isn’t action packed, much more an excavation of the internal. For anyone that likes psychological dramas, this is for you.  The reader is in the darkness of Lisa’s memory lapses as much as Lisa herself. You care enough to want to unravel the mystery but there isn’t any heart pounding terror happening along the way. There were times I felt the element of terror would have entered more, particularly for someone that suffered so much trauma. The novel ambles along and many readers of ‘thrillers’ don’t have the patience. For those that do, it’s a walk in the head. I enjoyed it but more from the victim’s perspective and there were times it moved too slowly for me. I expected the truth to be much more shocking, but all the same it was still strange.

Publication Date: February 1, 2017

Legend Press

 

The Velveteen Daughter By Laurel Davis Huber

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“Just one look at her this morning and despair flew into my heart. She had the look I dread, her eyes over bright, shining with that queer mix of euphoria and terror. And she talked incessantly, a very bad sign.” 

The Velveteen Rabbit was a beautifully tender children’s story, and after reading this gorgeous novel about the author Margery Williams and her gifted daughter Pamela the children’s tale has come to mean much more. Being real hurts terribly. Laurel Davis Huber has taken the true story of mother and daughter and fictionalized it but with precision, following facts so much that she seems to be channeling the entire family. From the beginning pages I was already hooked and feeling heart sore.

Pamela is an unusual child, a wunderkind artist but her state of mind is a fragile one. The struggle her mother Margery has is one to keep her safe from the world, but this puts her at odds with her husband Francesco and his exciting plans for their daughter’s success. Margery knows her daughter’s talent could leave her vulnerable to the attention, her child’s delicate mind may not withstand it but Francesco cannot be stopped. Francesco’s wild aspirations will change their entire lives and one later wonders, had she kept her daughter’s talent hidden until she came of age would things have turned out differently? Pamela adores her father, as they are so very much alike and will do anything to please him. As with true artists, Pamela’s natural talent is a thing she is driven to do, not for attention, simply because it is like breathing for her. It’s not about the masses, it’s always been about the undivided attention her father gives her. With her mother, she can let her guard down and reveal her broken insides. As she says “Mam’s eyes are vast almond-shaped seas, liquid navy, flowing with an endless depth of understanding and compassion. When she listens to you, she takes you in and you can’t help it, you simply give yourself over to her…”  It is this very knowing that induces fear for her daughter.

Periods of melancholia consume Pamela as she comes of age and can no longer contain it. What pushes her more, the attentions of the world or her father’s driving force? Life takes a toxic turn, if her father’s obsession is sharing her talent with the world, then her own obsession isn’t for art but a man. When love enters in the form of family friend Diccon (a poet)  and becomes her infatuation, longings blossom  in her tender heart like a poisonous flower her family fails to see. It is an all consuming desire that begins at the age of 13, she feels Diccon (20 years old) is her destiny and her reality blurs. Back and forth Margery and Pamela spill their hearts to the reader, each coping with Pamela’s illness in different ways. A mother is always real, and with snippets of The Velveteen Rabbit weaving it’s way into the novel, my heart became a wound. Pamela knows there is something wrong with her, and she is beset by periods of deep affliction that require hospitalization and therapy. A mother is as close to God as children can get, but we are all too human and Margery, despite her wisdom and heart, isn’t any different than the rest of us. Each time her daughter breaks against the harshness of the world, Margery too loses heart.

Years pass, in a moment of compulsion Pamela makes a decision that ends with a child, Lorezno. She has her own secrets to keep from her boy, and the novel is written with flashes from past to present. The cloud of melancholia never leaves Pamela entirely, interfering with her art there are times when she cannot paint. She needs her mother to help raise her boy, but her son may well be the one blessing in life that keeps her anchored to the world. I am simplifying the novel, it is a gorgeous historical literary fiction that reads more like a memoir of both mother and daughter. We are privy to the constant invading thoughts in Pamela’s mind, her desires, her attempts at trying to soothe and calm herself and how she fails. Margery’s thoughts are the bleeding of a mother’s heart that readers feel as their own.

Today we are far more aware of the states of mental health, and I’d like to think more understanding, but times were different then. So much remains unknown still today, and back then mental illness was far less defined. One cannot dismiss the crippling effects, not just on the patient but on the parents too. Margery watches her daughter, for mothers are detectors of the slightest nuance in their child’s being. Those with children who have any sort of illness can relate to the knot that lives inside said mother. One can never be ‘at ease’, one is always waiting for the bottom to drop. It’s a constant state of fear for your child, and as Margery wrote in The Velveteen Rabbit, “When you are Real, you don’t mind being hurt.” Margery hurts daily for her beloved, gifted, tormented daughter. Francesco is blinded as he only sees Pamela’s talent and his wild ambitions for her future, but Margery recognizes something that surfaces from the depths of her daughter’s being from early on. Francesco is a force that can’t be stopped, just as is Pamela’s illness, but without her father’s pushing her means of living may never have been reached. It’s cruel to be punishing to either parent, and later we learn Francesco and Pamela may be more alike than different. This constant watching never goes away in adulthood either, as mental stability is a fragile state. There are ups and downs, storms that pass and those that come to stay and incapacitate. There are no quick fixes, no miracle cures in real life.

Love in this family is a sour heart and a gift. What happens with Diccon is dangerous, but it’s the self-delusions that are most damaging to Pamela. Her mother’s staunch support and love is her salvation, as is Pamela’s son, Lorenzo.  What makes this particular historical fiction deeply touching is the love between mother and daughter, is there anything more pure? Laurel Davis Huber based the novel on more truth than fiction. There are no sad endings nor happy ones in life, we encounter both always. The Velveteen Rabbit is one of the most tender, beautiful children’s stories I have ever read but after knowing about the author and her daughter, I will never read it without this heaviness. If ever my heart overflowed with compassion, it is with this novel. We follow the family to the end of Margery and Francesco’s lives, and keep close to Pamela into her later years. What a beautiful, crushing story about a gifted and REAL mother and child!  Add this to your summer reading list!

Publication Date: July 11, 2017

She Writes Press

Meet Me In The In Between: A Memoir by Bella Pollen

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“I also had a passion. In my free time  I liked to torture dolls and stuffed animals. Run-of-the-mill stuff really- singeing their hair, twisting off their heads. My parents encouraged it.” 

When I first started reading I thought, oh- is this going to be a new age memoir? It’s not, keep going through her struggle with her night visitor, it all makes sense. I spent many nights when I should have been asleep laughing. I love her childhood and her eccentricities. She’s a child I would have loved to befriend and who can’t help but laugh when she admits to adults what she wants to be when she grows up? Living on two sides of the pond after her parent’s split, her world seems richer for it in experience. Her burning, fiery love affair with the smoldering Giacomo turns hilarious when his ‘titty squeezing’ daddy enters the scene. It’s either laugh, or cry! That these folks are actually real is just more solid proof that life is stranger than fiction. It’s as though she has entered the twilight zone but with the Godfather as the main attraction.

Escaping to the American West has to be the cure to what ails her, courting her past in solitude is just what she needs. But the locals she encounters are even wilder than anyone before them. Just how do you confront yourself, squelch your panics, lock out your sleep demons, channel your creative side, and be a good mother and wife at the same time? Maybe she becomes more vagabond than supermom, and it’s the raw honesty and hilarity of her journey that endears the reader to Pollen. I was tickled reading about her childhood and her adult years aren’t any less fascinating. Just how the heck does she find herself with smugglers in Mexico, surely she’s too delicate to journey into the country to learn about the perils migrants faced? Making editors and friends alike laugh, she does just that. The woman’s got grit, she does- but not so surprising when the reader remembers the earlier chapters of little blue-eyed girl walking to and from school, channeling Pam Grier in her beautiful Afro wig.

Her mother and father are interesting too, and there are losses and heartbreak but there seems to remain a ‘twinkle in the eye’ sort of humor that flows through her veins, and may well have come from her father. A beautifully written memoir about a woman who is just like any of us, trying to be a good wife and mother, struggling with her inborn hunger for periods of solitude, trying to be creative while filling her roles in life, winning and failing because she is human. Relationships are never happily ever after, we are all a work in progress, we can’t always keep up with each other or ourselves. Somehow, Pollen is able to use humor to keep the reader riveted, even when writing about the loss of her father. Wide eyed, wild, messy, honest and raw but never boring! Lovely.

Publication Date: June 6, 2017

Grove Atlantic

Grove Press

The Strays by Emily Bitto

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“It is strange which events leave those deep scars we carry with us over a lifetime. When Heloise talked about that night, even years later,  it was with a bitter seriousness, a complete inability to see the events other than as they occurred to her seven-year-old self.  It became a foundation myth, a lasting symbol of the troubled nature of Heloise’s childhood, the real sufferings she endured, but also the way she experienced these sufferings, reliving them over and over until they wore away their own caged-animal paths within her.”

Lily becomes one of the ‘strays’, so to speak, that the daughter of  infamous avant-garde painter Evan Trentham adds to the family. It isn’t long before her childhood  revolves around the bohemian lifestyle of the brood and their fascinating, talented friends that come and go. Her own life as an only child to average parents makes her ravenous with a need to fit in with a larger family and with the Trentham bunch, she has found a treasure of love, wildness, and seeing the world with raw emotions through their artistic minds. But Lily will never be one of them at her core, though she longs to be. Her first love affair is for her best friend Eva and with the entire family. What bond is deeper than those formed in childhood, particularly those of female friendships? Though she doesn’t share blood, they become sisters all the same but things deteriorate when other people enter the scene. Sometimes an open existence can be the downfall of the children. People the family supports may well have ill intentions, could they be attracting hangers on simply for their money and fame?

Vastly different from the routines and stability of Lily’s own small family of three , the Trenthams live much more freely, but witnessing adult situations and conversations with a child’s mind can be too much too soon. Overexposure can cloud ones thoughts to the point they don’t see threats. What will the cost of such a life be for the Evan Trentham’s daughters and what does it mean when Lily’s welcome is revoked because of Eva’s disastrous decision? There is a turn I didn’t quite see coming. The eccentricities of the artistic are fascinating from a distance, and often harmless but what does wearing a persona do to your loved ones? How does it change them? Children need freedom but they need parents, even the most feral child needs a place that remains stable and nurturing. Mother Helena has built a carefree universe alongside her brilliant husband and let her child fall by the wayside, in thinking there is no greater gift than an artist’s existence but that is a form of neglect. The finger of blame spins in this circle and lands at the heart of both parents. There is one line that made me think of Evan and Helena, “Evan and Helena were romantic, a blurry form we glimpsed as we passed the kitchen doorway, haloed by a diminishing candle.” So they remain- blurry, romantic, these beautiful forms that are more an artwork than actual parents.

Throughout the novel, it is understood Lily will always be seen as inferior, ordinary, withering beside the talent and open minds of the Trentham clan. Like an orphaned child, when chaos turns the family upside down and sets them upon each other, Lily longs to return to their nest. She is seduced by the family fiction as much as she is tangled in their fall, haunted by the clarity of truth. There is much to resent and damn the parents in the fall of the girls just as there is unnecessary cruelty in the distance Eva puts between them. Lily is torn and her choices have lasting repercussions, but what else could she have done?

Nothing happens violently, it is that the reader feels much like Lily,  a voyeur in the Trentham home, close as one can be and yet separate. Lily is addicted to the pulse of the place, she is the moon to their sun, lit up by fire that isn’t meant for her. There is something seductive about people different from your own and when Lily sheds her family, slips into the Trentham home she remains always on the periphery, a vessel of their sorrows. Does she ever truly recover? Can you ever bridge the distance when your presence is a brutal reminder?

As for the man that is ruinous to the family, is it really an invasion and abduction of affections when you never put up any defenses? Is it just a kingdom of fools, ruled by a mad king and blind queen?

Available Now

Winner of Australia’s 2015 Stella Prize

Twelve Books

Sisters One, Two, Three by Nancy Star

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“But in the Tangle house, order came and went in fits and starts. Chaos was far more reliable.”

The story starts with three sisters and a little brother. This may well be one of the saddest family stories I have read in a long time. Those looking for a light beach read often pick Women’s Fiction assuming it’s going to be happy endings and baked cookies, as if our literature can’t be disturbing, dysfunctional or raw. This novel is all those things, it is a woman trying to have a better family where chaos isn’t the norm, trying to keep her daughter in a safe bubble because she knows all too well it’s not just the things we see coming that can destroy and kill, it is in the freak accidents too. Ginger is a nurse, she feels it is her mission to keep everyone safe and this turns out to be the very thing causing a distance between her and her teenage daughter Julia. It’s fine and good when our children are young and we are their whole world, but it’s a normal phase for teenagers to grow, to learn to ‘adult’ while still under the umbrella of our protection. The problem is, Ginger’s control issues in the name of safety verge on the obsessive, interfering with normal functioning. As the reader journey’s back to the 1970s and the Tangle family’s ill fated vacation on Martha’s Vineyard it becomes crystal clear why Ginger can’t leave anything in her family’s life to chance.

The tangle family is composed of Ginger (the eldest, the mini mother) , Mimi,  Charlie (the only brother) , youngest sister Callie, mother Glory and their father Solly. Solly is the toy king of junk, running a business of overstock toys, as the story tells “Shipments of See ‘n Say where cows went oink. X-Ray Specs with only one lens. Pens with no ink.”  To say Glory is disappointed in her husband and the way her life has turned out is an understatement. Beautiful, once on the path to stardom as an actress (if her exaggerations are to be believed) finding herself chained with four children and a lumbering husband is what sets off ‘episodes’, moods like storms that come with debilitating headaches. Mothers throughout time have been the center, she’s the one who fixes everything, our nourishment, who wipes our tears and in some family’s that role doesn’t come naturally. “The Tangle children tried to make themselves good-natured, but no matter how much Glory wished they would become part of the blur of the beach children, racing in and out of water, flushed and happy, bodies glistening with a dusting of damp sand, she was stuck being the mother of Charlie and Callie, who refused to do anything but dig a hole to China, and Mimi, who had come up with a trivial project of her own, building a rock tower to the moon. Ginger irked her the most of all, using her reflector not to improve her tan but as a shield in front of her face, so people would leave her alone.”

Glory was desperate to be a part of that wealthy group of privileged friends, for her own children to be happy and carefree, rather than clumsy and ordinary, neglecting to realize her own stormy moods aren’t the environment sunny children spring from. Glory’s the sort of person whose emotional state is the measure of how everyone else’s day will go. “Glory’s eyes went dull. She could do that, make the light in her eyes flick on or off as if there were a hidden switch.” Parents together form our universe, and when there is mutual respect and balance the home is stable, the calm we look to in keeping us safe from the often chaotic world outside. The Tangle family is the exception, Glory’s desire for something richer than her current state of living, Solly’s gruff manner, the clashing personalities where disagreements can turn into all out war creates an unbearable home-life. Ginger is the little mother who steps in while her mother is finding herself with her theater group or behind closed doors avoiding her children. When an encounter with another man inspires Glory to obtain a rental at Martha’s Vineyard, the children can’t wait to escape the tension of home.

13, Ginger has decided is going to be an unlucky birthday, but it is far worse than she could have conjured in her worrisome mind. As her mother’s ‘bruised little peach’, the tragedy that happens on the trip will create in Ginger an obsessive need to avoid the dangers and risks everyday life imposes upon us. What happened on the beach that day is remembered in fragments that each sister recalls differently. In a silent family, the truth is distorted and what is solid melts beneath children’s feet. Each member walks away with a dose of self-blame, all the Tangle members are broken, and grief that isn’t confronted blackens not just memories but faith, hope, and future happiness.

As an aside, the family and their ‘Tangle Mangling’ of words was a wonderful quirk in the story. Everything comes together in the end, and it’s proof of tenderness in the seemingly emotionally stunted Glory. Callie, the youngest seems to be the only one ever able to win her mother over, simple for being herself. There is an ethereal element in her nature that survives even after tragedy strikes. Callie becomes a tender spot, as the youngest she was always left out and Charlie was her anchor. When he is gone… so too her world.

Glory is more brass as she gets older, but it’s with her death that past tragedies are confronted. Youngest sister Callie returns, but just where was she really? Why is she always disappearing, is it just her nature that causes wanderings? Certainly that day couldn’t have darkened her future as it did both Ginger and Mimi’s lives. What lies did Glory keep to her dying breath and why? Ginger’s own family is falling apart, her daughter flees and it’s a brutal severing but maybe necessary in order for healing to begin. Glory is a cold mother, often bitter and allowing her jaded opinions about love, family to spoil Ginger’s girlish innocence. On the flip side, the things that should have been told were locked away. Was Glory just trying to save her girls much in the same way Ginger wanted to create a safe existence for her own daughter Julia?

Readers will sour on Glory, but the tragedy breeds conflicting emotions. Glory suffers any parent’s worse nightmare, in a double tragedy of sorts. We don’t understand the full picture, much like the puzzles Glory loves to piece together, so too the novel. Was Glory redeemed at the end? No, not anymore than any of us are redeemed in death. She was selfish before she endured loss. Her children needed her far more than she gave, but it may just have been all she had. The reader can feel compassion though, and in her own way she loved all her girls, and her son as well. Some families are tight lipped, some too loose lipped, it’s so hard to find the perfect balance when we are imperfect beings. In this novel though, the Tangles keep tight explanations that could  have changed the trajectory of the girls relationships or lack thereof. In hindsight we have all the answers. Glory isn’t forgiven for often treating Ginger as an adult and snipping away any romantic girlish hopes for happiness, we all need doses of reality so we aren’t incapable of facing adulthood, but all children deserve a childhood unclouded by adult disappointments. Things come in due time, anything before is just cruelty. But in truth, in being over protective she is similar to her own mother in the wedge it puts between her and her own child.

This is brutal, sad, and full of family dysfunction which for so many is a reality. Maybe a reader will recognize their own family’s failings or maybe feel lucky they were spared such an upbringing. Either way, it kept me engaged. Of all the characters, what happened to Callie touched me the most. As for Julia’s choices, in breaking free she hurts her mother deeply, but remembering what that age was like and imagining the prison suffocating mothering can be, is it really that shocking?

Available Now

Lake Union Publishing