The Which Way Tree: A Novel by Elizabeth Crook


The fact that she was so hard on me and on Samantha makes it all the more curious the way she laid her life down, in such a bloody fashion, in defense of Samantha the day a panther came calling.

I usually don’t read a lot of novels set in the Civil War era but this story is written in such a way that the reader feels they’ve traveled back in time. The language feels authentic, I marvel at authors with the ability to place the proper drawl in their writing. The mother of Benjamin died after his birth, in the hard scrabble existence of the times, his father needed a woman so he found a mate in Juda, a ‘borrowed’ black woman whom he decided to love or keep, depending how you look at the situation. She birthed a daughter, his half-sister Sam. Mean to the bone, she fast showed young Benjamin who was boss of the house, but the meanness was born of hardness she must have experienced, as one night when she disrobed to show Ben he has already been beat in ‘leaving his mark on her flesh’. She certainly doesn’t take kindly to threats, especially from young boys. When a panther comes calling, she sacrifices herself to save her daughter Sam, but the panther can’t be bested by Juda’s grit. The attack on Sam can’t be stopped, leaving her face ravaged. A taste for vengeance is born in her, as her mother is dragged off by the big cat. It’s too late by the time their father returns to save Juda.

Through letters to a judge, Jim is testifying about the deaths of prisoners  one Clarence Hanlin may have a part in, but this becomes for the reader the story itself. “For six years, Sam had been waiting in a way that was eager. It seemed sometimes that all she did was wait, and watch for that panther.” Her obsession among other hardships they face force them to venture out after their father dies. They interfere with a Secesh named Hanlin, saving one Lorenzo Pacheco (the Mexican) . Taking a finger off with a hell of a shot, they discover that Hanlin’s uncle, Preacher Dob owns a dog that is a great tracker of… panthers. Hanlin is a bad seed, as the preacher is fast to remind with stories of his childhood deeds. The dog decides to help the children hence, the preacher joins them on their journey. Things don’t pan out as Hanlin thought they would, he wants his money, and he will stalk them as they stalk the devil panther and get his horse back too!

Life is more than hardscrabble, in fact Sam has grown to be as hard as her own mother was, minus the work ethics. She isn’t the most likable person, but if you explore what you learn about her, it’s hard to imagine her any other way. A face wrecked by a wild animal that killed her mother, her mother was ‘given’ to her father so there is her mixed race to contend with, the environment, the hardscrabble existence, what’s to be so dang happy about anyway? Ben, where does Ben get his light? He doesn’t seem to carry the same poison inside of him his wounded, angry half-sister does. He too lost his mother, though he never knew her. The only touch of a mother he ever knew had been through Juda, and based on the prologue we know she was mean to the marrow of her bones yet somehow manages to maintain a natural peace. By simply writing his letters, he encounters everything from rattlesnakes, to back-breaking work, hunger, not to mention the hassle of his spitfire sister who can’t seem to be bothered, to the point even Sam’s mare would be happy to see her elsewhere. It’s simply the state of his life, not one he complains about. He charms the judge through their correspondence, and receives help without ever asking for it. Sam is a different story entirely, and she makes her own ending, one Benjamin hears much later.

Do they kill the panther, avenging Juda’s death? Can they survive the threat of the Secesh, the Comanches, and all the hard luck things that befall them? Will the truth of just how bad Clarence Hanlin is ever be proven? You have to read.

I don’t usually read western novels, but I wanted a break from my usual reads. I wasn’t disappointed.

Publication Date: February 6, 2018

Little, Brown and Company

Fruit of the Drunken Tree: A Novel by Ingrid Rojas Contreras


 Mamá said Papá had to work far away because there were no jobs in Bogotá, but all I knew was sometimes we told Papá about things, and sometimes we didn’t. 

The Santiago’s lives behind a gated community may as well be a different world entirely from where their new, thirteen year old maid Petrona comes from. Despite their differences, or perhaps because of them, Chula is drawn into a friendship with her. Where Chula and her sister Cassandra spend their days full of mischief, harassing the local ‘witch’ and letting their wild imaginations run free, Petrona’s life is spent working for her poverty striken family, consumed with fears about her brothers and sister, all too aware of the drug lords that swallow young men, seducing the poor with food, televisions (even if they don’t work), and promises of power. The threat of danger, of death is nothing for a boy to fear when compared to the present suffering and humiliation of their circumstances. A hungry belly is a beast, a desire for respect and strength is a lure used to tempt the young into a life of crime. Petrona will protect her siblings, she must, even though she must sacrifice her youth, her happiness. Even if her brother spits at her, shames her.

Kidnappings by guerrillas for ransom are a constant threat, everyone knows someone who has been kidnapped even Chula’s own sister nearly fell victim in her infancy to abduction. Chula’s Mamá extends help to that other world, similar to the place she herself hails from, by hiring young girls desperate to feed their families. She knows that not all can be trusted, however, that the ‘help’ is more often than not linked to criminal activity. Petrona surely won’t last, not with her silent ways, her fearful eyes. The sisters begin to watch her, like big game, but it’s Chula who wonders at the thoughts in Petrona’s head. Charmed by the mystery, could her silence be a ‘spell’, the youthful fancies of their minds makes for many antics through the novel, getting them into dangerous situations.  The playfulness of their days makes the dreariness and shock of Petrona’s missing childhood freedoms that much more harsh. Watched over by an astute mistress, Petrona mustn’t fail, she needs every bit of her earnings to feed her family, to be the ‘head’ of the house that her brothers have failed at.

Chula’s parents are rarely together, with her father away working hard. Mamá is a beautiful woman, one every man notices, a woman with her own needs and desires. A woman who runs the house differently when  ‘Because Mamá grew up in an invasion she prided herself in being openly combative, so people who pretended to be weak disgusted her.’ Both parents are wrapped up in wars and politics that Chula is too young to understand, even if she finds herself interested, longing to be as informed and clever as her father. Petrona’s existence is nothing like theirs, she lives in a home made of garabge.

The day her ‘bleeding’ came, her mother informed her she was to marry or go to work. Raised to be the little mama of the house, her life is surrounded by worn out women, broken people, those worse off driven to begging. Boys are meant to focus on an education, the girls are meant to support them with hard work. Some end up drug addicted or working for druglords, others dead. She knows she must work her fingers to the bone, be brave so the Santiagos keep her on as maid. Petrona’s family is interested in everything she has to confide about the wealth of the Santiagos from what they eat to the size of their home. Despite her promise to keep their hungry bellies fed, she knows it may not be enough to keep her little brother from the comforts that the encapotado (covered ones) can seduce him with. Violence and shame will come to her home, despite the sweat on her brow from her hard work.

The Santiagos aren’t as immune to the threat of violence as they think, and it escalates. Mamá’s burning sage to ward off evil may not be enough to keep her girls safe nor will the tall retaining walls the government built to keep the rich safe from poor people like Petrona. Car bombs, the threat of Pablo Escobar, all of it is creeping closer and closer to the rich, proving it cannot be contained, escaped. Superstitions dominate Chula and Cassandra, belief that protection from witches and all evils of the world are possible but Petrona knows of no spells to afford her protection. Petrona’s desperation leads her to the flowers of the drunken tree; a wonderful tie to the title of the novel.

Petrona’s state of despair after a loss makes her heart ripe for first love in the shape of a man named Gorrión. Is he salvation? Destruction? Her choices and entanglements lead to consequences that touch them all. Just what will a young woman do to crawl out of the slums, to attempt to conquer the pit of misery that has stolen so much from her. Where has hard work and loyalty gotten her? Two families have to find ways to survive as the extreme violence of Colombia escalates each day, but can they? Following Petrona was far more fascinating than Chula’s life, but that is the point. Chula is seduced herself by the mystery of the young maids existence. Petrona’s youth and innocence betrays her, but with limited choices how could she have done anything differently, how could have the wisdom to know what the cost will be? How could she know if she’ll be saved or find backs turned on her?

Power struggles carry the novel, not just in politics and crime but within ones own family, within the class system. What is left when you start with nothing, everyone you love is taken from you? A beaten people, forced to bend to those who have everything. A place where hero and criminals are hard to tell apart for people who are suffering and everyone slowly disappearing. What is left when you had everything and are forced to abandon your home and country? Forced to start all over again, separated from your husband, with no idea if he is dead or alive.

This is a unique novel that is a coming of age for two girls from completely different worlds. It is a story of survival, of upheaval. The novel crawls at times, but it’s interesting how everything that is happening is perceived in different ways not just between Chula and Petrona but between Chula, her sister and their mother. We don’t understand things the same way as the ‘grown ups’, certainly not the scope of danger. Nothing can return to what it once was, not even when the family is ‘together’, and Chula’s reaction to her father is genuine. I wish I could go into that more, even though it’s such a short part of the novel, it effected me as much as the horrors that occur for Petrona, but I don’t want to ruin the novel.

The ending is as it should be, it isn’t seamless. There remains a lost feeling but it works for me.

Publication Date: July 31, 2018

Doubleday Books

The Bad Daughter: A Novel by Joy Fielding


Melanie was calling for a reason, and whatever that reason was, it wasn’t good. The sisters had barely exchanged two words since their mother died, and none at all since Robin had left Red Bluff for good after their father’s hasty remarriage.

The news isn’t good, Robin’s father, his wife and her young step-sister have been in a horrific attack during a home invasion. Despite her years as a trained therapist, it’s hard to put what she has learned into practice when it comes to her own dysfunctional family. A philandering father who destroyed any bond they had, stealing her best friend Tara in the process, is on the edge of death. Who could possibly have had a reason to want to kill them? Maybe the real question is, who didn’t have a reason to kill them? What will the little girl remember from that ill-fated night, if she ever wakes up?

Then there is Melanie, Robin’s older sister who has resented her since birth. Melanie who still lives at home with her teenage autistic son. Why does her sister blame her for her own failings? She left, didn’t she? Isn’t that enough to please Melanie?

Melanie is a blunt character, maybe the only one whose true emotions are evident. Robin’s love life seems to be falling apart, based on fears her own dear daddy put on her with his many betrayals. Ever since losing the one person she felt closest too, best friend Tara, she hasn’t had anyone she is genuinely close with to share all her joys and sorrows. She also doesn’t have a reason to trust men, and her fiance seems to be ‘distracted’, hence she has put distance between them. Just another thing going wrong in her structured life. Her brother is as distant as she is, licking his wounds far away from the family. Wounds caused by his father’s disgusting transgression against him. He hasn’t spoken to dear old dad in a long time, in fact his father’s demise would be welcome, one imagines. He has a very strong reason to want to kill his father and Tara, but could he really be capable of harming Tara’s sweet little girl Cassidy too? Robin doesn’t think so.

Then there is her nephew Max, whose behaviors can’t help but raise suspicions, in the town and in Robin’s mind. Naturally, as his mother, Melanie is protective of him but why is she so angry all the time, and why is she hesitant to care about what will happen with Cassidy? It seems she wouldn’t care if she never came home, certainly doesn’t want to take on the responsibility of raising her if the worse happens to their father.

Cassidy takes an immediate liking to Robin, in fact asking to see her and not Melanie, strange considering she hasn’t known Robin and has lived around Melanie all her life. Something is seriously wrong! Suddenly her real father, a criminal, is sniffing around. There are too many possibilities, but the answers she is looking for may be closer to home than she thinks.

The relationships are great, it seems true that we return to the people our family expects us to be when we’re home. Melanie has a natural gift for knocking her sister down, regardless of her successes and Robin lets her. Melanie has a lot on her shoulders, her defensiveness about her son  Landon is relatable. I’m not supposed to like Melanie, but I do, at least you know what to expect when dealing with her. Here is another story where if I delve into the characters too much I give away the whodunit. I wish Landon was more of a character and less text-book. However, the way others perceive his behavior as suspect is close to reality.

Just who is the bad daughter here? You’ll know soon enough!

Publication Date: February 27, 2018

Random House

Ballantine Books



Then She Was Gone: A Novel by Lisa Jewell


That was how she once viewed her perfect life: as a series of bad smells and unfulfilled duties, petty worries and late bills.

And then one morning, her girl, her golden girl, her last born, her baby, her soul mate, her pride and her joy, had left the house and had not come back.

I read Lisa Jewell when I lived in England and always liked her, lately her writing has taken a darker turn, heavier subjects and I prefer this Jewell! Then She Was Gone introduces the reader to Laurel, a mother whose favorite child, Ellie,  fails to come home. Her entire world goes from ‘perfect’ to ruinous. Her family is shattered, every relationship strained. Laurel longs for Ellie, because Hanna could never react to life in the sunny ways her sister would have. She refuses to let go of her hope, that she will find out what happened, that they will find Ellie. The crushing weight of the mystery of Ellie’s disappearance has become wound in Laurel’s heart that has infected her other children. She stopped being a wife, a mother… the routines that once carried her no longer seemed important. Laurel is consumed by the loss, the remains of her life, including her husband and children slip through her fingers. Everything she once did to nurture her family meant nothing in the end, it all becomes pointless. Naturally her other daughter feels her sister’s absense like a curse, a blackhole between she and her mother, one she can never hope to cross. She knows her mother would give anything, even her, to have Ellie back.

Many years pass and then Laurel meets a man, Floyd whose little girl Poppy reminds her too much of the daughter who disappeared so long ago. She is finally moving on, but with Poppy now in her life it is dredging up unanswered questions about the past, pulling her back into the mystery of what really happened.

The novel goes between Then and Now, then- Ellie becomes close to her tutor who is quite an interesting character. Ellie tells us her story, step by step, every mistake that led to her disappearance. Reading the novel, you want to step in and save Ellie from what is about to befall her. At times it seems removed from reality, but then I think about true crime stories that are shockingly similar which makes it less fictional. What could be scarier? How easily we open the door to our own nightmares. Mothers, even the best of us, are often blind to the small sufferings of our children. We are trained to look for the big stuff, hence missing the tiny details, for me that is the ache in the novel. It is the truest pain, that no matter how perceptive we are as parents, how attuned to our children, we still miss so much.

When she begins to be a part of Floyd’s life, her past is threaded through his. Has fate brought them together for a reason beyond love and healing?

I figured this one out early on, but it didn’t take away from the tragic turns. It’s strangely disturbing. I can’t talk about the twists in this review, it would give away everything. A child disappearing is as heart wrenching as the death of the love a mother should have for those who remain. It’s hard to blame Laurel, because this is every mother’s worse fear, but there are still other children too. I remember looking at my own grandmother who had suffered so much loss  in her lifetime and being in awe of her; the ability to still give so much of herself, to love, to continue on… to still be kind, that life didn’t sour her, giving her it’s worse really. When asked “how did you move on”, always “I had other children to raise”, yet there is no answer that can encompass the pain of the years that she knew would follow. My own grandmother couldn’t even have a picture of her child around decades after tragedy, so reading a fictional account of a mother who closes up left me feeling compassion, while others will only see a selfishness in sinking into sorrow. I’m thinking I’d be more destroyed, like Laurel. On the one hand you hate her for closing up, on the other, can you blame her? Understanding what people need from us, doesn’t always mean we can give it, even when we should. In Laurel’s case, something died inside of her the day her girl vanished. When the truth is discovered, it only makes the lost years that much harder to take.

Publication Date: April 24, 2018

Atria Books



The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster by Sarah Krasnostein


Of course, Sandra’s skill at making others feel secure also eliminates a whole host of threats to herself and optimizes her ability to move forward with her work and with her life, because Sandra is a virtuoso at survival.

This is the sort of true life story that makes me ashamed of all the things I get depressed thinking of or complain about in my life, that seem so much bigger than me at the moment. Sandra is a virtuoso at survival, without a doubt. Reading about her early years as a little boy was one of the most disturbing cruelties I have ever read, and it doesn’t really get easier as she navigates the rest of her life. This book gave me pause, I chewed over so many misconceptions so many of us have about the transgender community. Imagine the struggle in someone Sandra’s age, when it was far more brutal to be anything that deviated from the ‘norm’, when it was criminal. Sure, we’ve come further… sort of.

How does the human spirit survive so many cruelties? Is it any wonder she put up a protective shield? Yet, Sandra in her career is the most compassionate person in dealing with the hoarding, the filth so many of us would be shocked by. She has a delicacy few can master, and while this book certainly touches on trauma cleaning, death and decay the true trauma is what Sandra has endured and continues to endure. None of the mountains of trash or excrement nor human blood disturbed me half as much as the inhumanity Sandra has been victim to or witnessed.

She has been many people, lived many lives and maybe her memories are distorted because she’s had to abandon her old selves to stay afloat. A son first, starved for food and affection, a loyal brother despite any reason he should be, a hopeful father just trying to be ‘normal’, trying to escape the true self dying to be freed, a drag queen, a prostitute, a victim, a trophy wife and a businesswoman! Yes, Sandra Pankhurst brings order to chaos, but it’s her humanity that makes her so highly regarded in her field. How is it she isn’t poisoned by all the rot she’s been exposed to, that’s been forced on and in her? Or maybe she is, maybe her inability to get deeply close to any one person is the poison’s lasting effect. Still, she is an amazing woman who rather than turning her horrifying experiences into hatred for others, found a way to lift those so many others turn their backs on, and rises to the challenge that defeats so many of us.

I thought about her children and first wife, as we readers have the leisure to do when it’s a stranger’s life we can pass judgement on, and I wondered what the options were. What if Sandra stayed and pretended her entire life? What if times were different and she could have remained a presence? How can we know what is the right choice? Certainly she had her wild times, many can see it as escaping the responsibility her ex was left to shoulder alone, but then… but then… the horrors of trying to embrace the female inside of her, who would call any of what she endured easy? Escape? She was a caged thing for such a long time, blame the times if you will, or the brutal abuses by her parents (and can you really call them parents), call her selfish or an abomination(because some will) but never imagine being Sandra was ‘easy’.  What does it say about us as human beings when we force those who are different to crawl for a living, that when they need help, they are viewed as less than human?

My heart was bleeding for Sandra, but also for those who tried to love her. She tried to be normal, create a family and hurt others in the process, but she is a wound herself. It’s a strange thing, to be so strong for others, for strangers and so distant to those who you’ve brought into this world, distant from a husband you love, if not desire… This is the only way she can live in her skin, this is how Sandra found her true self and it cost her far more than a pound of flesh.

I felt compassion for her clients, seen through Sandra’s eyes how can the reader not see that really, take away the garbage and it’s all about fears, which we all have. Take into account mental health, who of us can truly say our minds are without their own pitfalls? It’s easy to look at people who are all alone, look down on the “crazy person” living with rats, sleeping on garbage, and dehumanize them, not imagine there has been some trauma that altered the trajectory of their life. To have compassion means you aren’t as removed from the state they are in as you tell yourself and that’s a scary thought. The same could be said for the horror of living inside a body that is a prison, I cannot even fathom the pain of it, reading this book is just a taste. I can step away and move along with my life, so I’ll never fully comprehend what such a life encompasses. We think we’re so far from tragedy, ruin, but life is nothing if not a lottery. It could always be you.

Publication Date: April 10, 2018

St. Martin’s Press


The Extraordinary Life Of Sam Hell: A Novel by Robert Dugoni


Now, as an adult with that healthy dose of  perspective we call experience, I realize my mother was right, as she was so often when it came to my life. We think we have control over our lives, especially when we’re young and seemingly invulnerable. We’re told we can do anything we set our minds to, that the world is our oyster, that all we have to do is shuck the hard shell and pluck the rich, nourishing meat inside. I realize now, however, that the shell is a lot harder than I appreciated, and that I never could have predicted the things that would happen in my life.

This is such a lovely coming of age novel but it isn’t all gooey softness. Terrible mean things occur, how can they not to a little boy attending Catholic school who the other children call “Devil Boy” because of his red eyes, caused by ocular albinism. His mother knows it’s a special gift given to him by God, one he will come to understand as he grows up. It was hard enough getting the school to accept Sam, but his mother took on the fight. That he be a discomfort to the other godly children simply because of his appearance isn’t enough to make his mother give up. With the school at first rejecting her son, his mother sees the ‘hollowness’ of the ‘christian ideas’ being taught. The champion of Sam,  his mother refuses to back down until her beloved child gets in to Our Lady Mercy, despite the cruelty of Sister Beatrice, her son deserves to be treated the same as any other child!  His mother has faith in God but more, in her son’s future, one she knows has purpose. Another’s faith isn’t enough to save a child from the taunts of his peers, nor the terrible loneliness he suffers. Sadly, it isn’t just children who wear hatred, adults aren’t immune to ugliness. When Ernie Cantwell (the only African American kid in his school) befriends him, he knows Ernie is his salvation. When Bully David Freemon hits Sam in the face with a rubber ball, it’s a moment that changes the future, when he turns his hatred on Ernie, it’s a moment for Sam to fight for what’s right! When he is caught, Ernie takes a brave step, in Sam’s defense. It sounds like a simple story, typical of school antics, but it’s anything but. A beautiful friendship is born that day.

He lies about his school days to save his parents from worry, Freemon’s actions change that. The reality of his ‘outcast’ status comes to light. He is smart, a gifted young man but terrible when it comes to making friends. Freemon certainly isn’t done with him, and commits a brutal act. With it, good things happen and a girl named Mickie enters Sam’s life, and remains there into adulthood. The novel flows between past and present effortlessly, and the future is just as engaging as Sam’s childhood. I went through a range of emotions, because there are moments that inspire compassion, outrage, love, and shock. There will be times when you rally behind a character and others when you hope to see them ‘get theirs’. Even the characters you feel so much animosity towards you may later understand, while not excusing the choices they’ve made.

Mickie is a pleasure, she is the fire needed! She is enrolled, a former public school student rumored to be sent to Our Lady of Mercy to be reformed. Naturally that’s not going to happen, she is intelligent and much more mature than Sam and Ernie. As the years pass, their relationship dynamics change and Sam meets an older girl named Donna who has a lot to teach him about love and lust. Donna is also the reason he lashes out at Mickie, passing judgements.

As an adult, Sam works as an eye doctor and he is about to learn the purpose of his condition through another child. His life has gone in a direction led by another, and it’s time he uses his eyes to see what he has become and maybe make big changes. I devoured this novel a month ago and couldn’t wait to review it. It isn’t just about the friendship between boys of different skin color, nor a little boy’s red eyes, nor the girl who has become so important to him.. it is about a mother’s passion for her unusual special boy, all the people who inhabit his world and how we sometimes allow others to steer our lives, handing our choices off to others without bothering to question everything we let happen. I even enjoyed reading the author’s acknowledgments at the end, please do as well. I think about all the people who have their own cross to bear, how different it could be if they too had someone their corner to champion them. Our life is about the cards we draw, lucky for Sam he has parents who saw a challenge as a gift, not a curse and what a difference support can make, rather than a fatalistic doom and gloom approach. In the end what makes us different, or an outcast, really can be the meat of our story!

Publication Date: April 24, 2018

Lake Union Publishing



Laura & Emma: A Novel by Kate Greathead


Laura was envious of others’ accounts of struggle, which were recalled with a certain fondness. It had been an adventure, the thrill of the hustle;  they’d chased a dream against the odds, and now they were living it.  She could only imagine the pride of being personally responsbile for everything one had- professional success,  friends, apartment- and being able to trace all this back to hard work. Knowing that everything in their lives wasn’t a given, that it all could have gone a different way.

Laura comes from money, she never thought she’d have a child but a one night stand changes everything. Laura isn’t the most passionate of women, sex seems more like a thing to just get through. It certainly isn’t the center of her life. She can just get rid of the problem. Reading a magazine an idea strikes her, she can be a Supermother, one who doesn’t need a man! Raising a child without a father, it’s just what she does with her eccentric family and the guidance of Dr. Brown. For a woman who choses to be ‘progressive’, Laura is uptight. Emma is the light in the novel, constantly at odds with her mother. Laura knows her daughter isn’t the right fit for the “Winthrop Way”, her ‘inappropriate’ daughter, creating a drawing of a man fully in the nude. Emma’s actions always seem to get under her mother’s skin, a proper woman.

The fun of the novel comes from Emma, her untamed spirit, her funny comments and actions. She doesn’t know  the truth of how her mother got pregnant, and her Bibs (grandma) assures her she was conceived with Swedish seed, because isn’t that more exciting? Laura wanted to raise her daughter as the Supermother she imagined that day, so long ago when she decided to not abort her. Beyond being a single mother, she isn’t exactly living an overly liberal life and certainly not one of struggle. She is a wealthy woman who wants to be normal, like the rest of us, but there is something annoying rather than nobel about it, considering Emma ends up in the same world. Emma is born more progressive and free anyway, compared to the stuffy world she grows up in, as she says her mother often tells her ‘less is more’ about the way she navigates life, but Emma really can never be ‘less’.  Once she hits junior high, anger is born and aimed at her mother. The reader rushes through each year, towards the end Emma finally goes to a boarding school aimed more towards the ‘individual’ and Laura is on her own again. They have discussions on the phone and like many mothers she realizes all Emma wanted was a normal family, maybe… whatever that entails.

I never warmed to Laura, for someone so focused on living a life completely different from how she was raised, it seems it was already too ingrained in her. Bibs was fun, and a bit obnoxious. The storyline with Dr. Brown was interesting considering the times, but he is gone too soon. I feel the way the years are presented is a little too rushed for me to get as involved in the characters as I wanted. Emma drives the story on, I just wish Laura was half as interesting as her daughter. The ending… is it an ending?

I’m curious of what other readers will think of this novel, there were funny moments, I laughed when Emma asks if her mom is glad she doesn’t have brown hair like hers as she is blonde instead, because it’s better.  ‘Maybe it’s Maybelline’, it takes you back to the 80s. The novel feels more like hanging out with a single mother and her daughter for a while, nothing big happens, it’s all just small quiet moments. I’ve grown up with friends of single mothers and their lives were nothing like this, but they didn’t come from wealth and comfort.


Publication Date: March 13, 2018

Simon & Schuster