Coming of Age in a Hardscrabble World: A Memoir Anthology by Nancy C Atwood (Editor), Roger Atwood (Editor)

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They will tell you that the depth of that meanness often depends on what life has done to a person, on the impressions left by brushes with people different from you, on those rare times when the parallel universes came close enough to touch. -Rick Bragg from All Over but the Shouting 

Growing up in working class America takes the spotlight in this non-fiction collection of excerpts from memoirs written in the 1980’s to 2014. The many voices within encompass more differences than their ethnicity, each life experience despite location is it’s own microcosm. The readers themselves are brushing up against parallel universes here. Some grew up with parents who were immigrants, wanting desperately to gain an education, no matter how limited their options. “I only know she’s clever, she deserves an education, and she’s going to get one. This is America. The girls are not cows in the field only waiting for a bull to mate with.” This from Vivian Gornick’s memoir Fierce Attachments: A Memoir.  For so many immigrants their limited language skills in their new country has them working jobs far beneath their skill and education level, naturally children growing up in such homes have to help their family out, to stay afloat even working as young as nine as Luis J. Rodriguez did. Child labor wasn’t new to the Rodriguez family, his own mother a cotton picker. Maya Angelou herself wandered the streets, living in an empty car in a junkyard for days. There lies a pulsing heart full of determination, at such a tender age. Something about struggle lends wisdom, feeds talent, some gain strength from adversity they face but there wasn’t really a choice, not where living in poverty is concerned. You do what you have to do.

We talk about race and inequality, but reading about it from another’s perspective is a different experience entirely. This excerpt from Joe Queenan’s Closing Time: A Memoir, speaks volumes about how sheltered our world views often are when we are young and surrounded only by what we are taught and experience in our own environment. “Until our paths crossed, I had no idea that people with dark skins were even allowed to be Brides of Christ.” Poverty and abuse too, it is inspiring to read about the mountains others have traversed, that even when it seems fate is against them, they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and fought their way to what they wanted, a better life. It’s not enough to be smart, conformity is often the beast one had to embrace, danger, racism, and discrimination. Class, coming from nothing you have to learn how to fit into those grand, distinguished places you find yourself in, places others navigate with ease, born to it. It’s not enough to ‘make it’, you have to survive and figure out where you fit and how. It’s rebelling when you need too, conceding when you have to. We like to think we’re above class in the Western World but it’s just as alive here as anywhere else. Maybe you don’t enter places where your social standing is tested, your education, your wealth or maybe such doors are closed to you, but they exist all the same.

Alcoholism and how children grow up in the midst of it, the fighting over money and lack thereof. The things mothers and fathers keep from each other, a game children are not yet well versed in and the disastrous consequences as shared in an excerpt from Mary Karr’s memoir (and a personal favorite of mine) The Liar’s Club. Mothers of divorce who get lonely and try on a man and his family, blended families not quite mixing. Salvation that is almost as bad as loneliness, trying to become a part of a new family like Tobias Wolff. Hanging with kids on the city streets, all rough and tumble. Friendships with boys whose homes become refuges where some mothers play piano and fathers have excellent libraries, an eye into different worlds. Homes where bigotry is just as natural as breathing, where mother’s get beatings and crying “Don’t hurt my teeth”, is her only defense as her son watches on afraid momma will be killed. (Rick Bragg,  All Over but the Shoutin’).

This collection is varied and wonderful, even in the darkest corners there is light. It offers up meaningful moments in some of the most ‘hardscrabble lives’ as told through memoirs that will likely inspire readers to read the full books.

Available Now

University of Georgia Press

 

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Mrs. Everything: A Novel by Jennifer Weiner

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“This life,” Cal said. “You have to give up a lot, I have family who won’t see me. It’s hard. It’s not for everyone.”

In the beginning, it is older sister  Jo “tall and gangly and everything she did was wrong” and little sister Bethie ” chubbie and cute” a child who “always said exactly the right thing” that complete the makeup of the Kaufman family.  Where Jo is closer to her father, Bethie is Mommie’s perfect darling, a child who doesn’t behave in the unnatural manner her older ‘tom boy’ sister Jo does. It is 1950’s Detroit and their new home is surrounded by families just like them, “birds of a feather” all perfectly flocking together in rhythm and God forbid you are “different.” No one tests their mother more than Josette, who doesn’t mean to be so difficult and really cannot explain why things that come easy to others is so hard for her. She can’t help but be herself, even when she tries to be the good girl her mother desires, catastrophe follows and boy does her mother make sure she knows just how much she fails to be the daughter she wants.

It isn’t only within her family that her nature brushes against societal norms. Friendships with other girls mean more than they should, her wants and desires for her future are thwarted by the times Jo lives in, and will chip away at her dreams of freedom. An athlete, a writer, liberal minded coming of age in a conservative world will whip her into an acceptable shape. Through betrayal of those she loves most, and of course responsibility to her little sister and impossible to please mother, Jo (like countless women before her) will forget herself in order to fit in. Marriage, children… she is finally a good girl, right? The world isn’t ready to accept a woman like her, to let her live freely. It’s not safe to be her true self.

Bethie’s beauty should make her world a tasty confection and guarantee her most fevered dreams come true. Her mother knows she’s meant to be something special one day!  A girl who everyone loves immediately, the perfect lil’ helper, people pleaser, someone whose very nature charms everyone in her orbit, why… what could possibly derail her future? Sometimes, a girl with so much appeal attracts nothing but danger, through no fault of her own. Bethie learns nothing stays sweet in an ugly world, and before long becomes the subversive daughter that Jo once was, refusing to settle in one place nor with a man. There is so much to taste in the forbidden elsewhere! If Josette wants to spend her life being content, tied to convention… well bully for her. No one is going to tame Bethie. Let Jo pretend!

This is a book about women, their options, the opportunities and lack thereof. The shaming when a daughter, mother, sister dares to look beyond the plans other’s have made for her. The disapproval she will encounter when she strikes out on her own, against the will of her mother/father or husband. The ever looming threat of losing your family if you chose anything for yourself that isn’t ‘approved’. The lessening that is expected when one becomes a wife, mother. Before long, you’ve lost yourself. Too it is about the abuse that girls welcome (according to the world, at least) or have to accept for the sake of survival.

The sisters who once had to support each other drift apart, each denying themselves their true natures. Life happens, it brutalizes and punishes in unequal measure. From an early loss both find themselves sacrificing their dreams and even innocence. It is a story about sisterhood, motherhood and in a sense, self-hood and how every choice or the transgressions of others, and the demands the world puts on us makes us who we are, for better or worse. The question is, can we come back to the self we once buried in order to be accepted?

What is more heartbreaking than thinking about the deaths we suffer, internally, of our many selves? The times Josette and Bethie came of age in were full of strife and civil unrest. Children who questioned their parents ways, be it a mild irritation such as why the fuss of dressing like some cookie cutter family, or the heavy, senseless, shameful weight of their parents racism weren’t exactly the ideal child. Children didn’t question the ways of the adult world, period. Step out of line, and you will be tarred and feathered. You were not free to love where you wanted, with so many constraints, this is why free love (social, sexual movement) was born. Many people bucked convention. Yet children eventually want to please, to have their mother/father’s love, sadly at the expense of their real selves. Other little boys and girls, they get too much unwanted love from some adults. It’s hard to write about this novel without giving away everything that happens, but it truly is a novel full of heartbreak and hope. When it’s your turn to be a parent, despite promising yourself you will do better than your mother/father, you can bet a child will introduce you to your weaker self. Life happens, and comes full circle and at heart it is a tale of two sisters that find their way back to each other.

Publication Date: June 11, 2019  Out Tomorrow!

Atria Books

This Is Home: A Novel by Lisa Duffy

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And in my mind, I’d think, dying isn’t the only way someone dissappears. 

Sixteen-year old Libby knows all about disappearing loved ones, having lost her mother to cancer. Then, the home her father Bentley and Libby shared with her mother went too, forcing them with no choice but to reside in the middle apartment of her Aunt Lucy’s triple-decker. Above them, her father’s siblings eldest sister Aunt Lucy  and youngest  Aunt Desiree complete the circle that makes up their odd little family. But it’s overwhelming, nosiy, there is no privacy!  Then there is the dog Rooster Cogburn, a rescue they saved from the euthanisa hit list, the mut a temporary addition that has become as much blood as any of them. But now, Libby is meant to tolerate a strange, creepy woman living downstairs because of her father’s gerousity? Moving her into a house already overstuffed, too many people in her business! Why add another person when they are meant to find their own home?! It’s inconceivable! She could well be a serial killer, like the one on tv! Who moves in with a strange family like hers anyway?

Quinn Ellis, aka the creepy new tenant, is living with the silence of her husband John’s departure. Nay, abadnonment! After the fighting, there is no way she can continue to live in their apartment, not according to the landlord. Worse, he left her to shoulder the aftermath and move alone! Untreated PTSD has wrecked havoc in John’s life, and now everything is spinning in Quinn’s with no one to lean on, until Bentley, John’s former Sergeant, now a local policeman steps in. Quinn’s life is nothing like she long ago imagined. John once assured her it was safe joining The National Guard, but the was until the deployments and Iraq. They were so young when they had big choices to make, and now, they are so far from who they once were, veritable strangers to themselves and each other. Were they really ever meant to be? Was it all just too hasty and rushed? It feels like another lifetime enitrely. How is she to fix their problems, pick up the pieces when he’s vanished on her? Does she really want him back? Were they happy before he went away? These are hard questions she must confront and there is a far more more pressing issue she has to stomach.

The seaside town of Paradise doesn’t hold shiny happy memories for everyone. It has it’s dark corners, as all towns do. Places people go to escape their pain, places young people sniff out to seek thrills and highs. These are haunts where stories merge. Libby’s memories of her mother have shadows over them, as much as Quinn’s time with John has it’s storms. Pain may well draw the two into each other’s orbit, and create a love they both sorely need. Each have their own secrets, the biggest ones they keep from themselves but soon Libby and Quinn form a bond. Libby is  dealing with her own relationship issues involving her best friend Flynn and his new girlfriend, even stranger still her feelings about his older brother Jimmy, once a deeply troubled youth before joining the military. Something is going on with Flynn, and Libby naturally gets tangled up in it, while Jimmy doesn’t miss a thing. Jimmy knows all too well the sort of dangers and temptations lurking in the town of Paradise, places he has fled. Can he forsee dangers before it’s too late?

Beautifully written are the different transitions of military life. John and Bent are older, dealing with how to support their brothers in arms while still doing the right thing. Too, they must cope with their own wounds, be they war related or civil life and losses. Jimmy is a young man whose character has a turn for the better at the start of his service. It is a perfect fit. With John we see the domino effect PTSD has on relationships, friends, and family. John and Bent are as much brothers as blood realted Jimmy and Flynn, each wanting to support one another.

Quinn and Bentley are attracted to each other, but could it just be loneliness? Things could get really messy. Both Quinn and Bent have lost their spouses, in different ways and both have hearts as hungry as the ocean is vast. Can they all learn to open themselves up, despite their misgivings? This Is Home is a cast of flawed, realistic characters just trying to figure out where or with whom home is.

Publication Date: June 11, 2019

Atria Books

 

 

Keeping Lucy: A Novel by T. Greenwood

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She’ll be feeble-minded, no more intelligent than a dog. The hardship she will bring to your family- women never realize the impact that raising an imbecile has on a marriage. On the other children. You must think of your son.

October 1969, Ginny Richardson gives birth to a baby girl born with Down Syndrome. While still in a haze from the drugs administered, the doctor, her husband and his family make the decision to send Lucy away to Willowridge, a school that can serve the ‘many many challenges’ she will face. Some of which, they convince her, are heart defects, vision and hearing difficulties just to name a few. She will never be a normal child, she will never be able to interact, no better than a dog, there is no point in being involved in the child’s life.  It’s too late to protest, it’s all been arranged, the child is already gone.

Life goes on, Ginny raises her first-born son Peyton while Ab’s time is eaten up by working for his father’s firm, the path set for him to become district attorney. No one runs her family quite like her overbearing father-in-law, the force behind her husband Ab’s rise. All of that is about to be threatened when her friend  Marsha calls to inform her that Willowridge, the very “school” institution her baby Lucy was placed in, is being sued after a local reporter in Amherst went undercover, exposing the horrors within. Ginny’s first thought it “Ab can fix this”, he has the legal knowledge, the power of his family… surely he will know what to do, he won’t risk their own child being abused, living in the squalid conditions the exposé revealed, will he? Maybe her own marriage should be examined, maybe she doesn’t really know her husband at all.

With the support from her friend Marsha, she will journey to the school and see for herself just what is going on, visit her child for the first time in two years since she was taken away, her father-in-law be damned! Imagine the shock when Lucy isn’t quite the ‘feeble minded child’ they swore she would be. Naturally readers will be horrified at the very idea of a mother giving up, and without a lick of fight, her own newborn baby girl. Times were different, I remember my mother telling me how poorly she was treated as a young mother in 1971 when she birthed my sister, how condescending doctors could be, and that’s with a healthy delivery. It was a lot less inviting and open as it is today, women were often put in a ‘twilight sleep’, and it was a sterile, surgical setting then, a far cry from birthing rooms now where family can support you. Doctors were far more authoritative, patients were in the dark often and it is no surprise women would cave to their ‘superior knowledge’. It’s hard coming from a time where we are swamped with knowledge and advocates, fierce about the rights of those with special needs to fathom how a mother can be talked out of keeping her child, but it happened. Ginny bends to her husband and his father, highly educated men themselves are sold on the idea that all hope is lost and it’s impossible to keep such a child alive… in fact, they are sure baby Lucy is lucky if she lives only a few years. If she does survive, surely it will only be because of the full care she will receive at Willowridge, care and time Ginny and Ab could no way manage to give their needy child. Ginny has no reason to not believe them.

The truth is, such a child shames her father-in-law, doesn’t fit in with his perfect family. The beauty of the novel is the moments Ginny begins to fall in love with her little girl and finds the courage to fight for her even with every resource out of her reach, the law and family against her. Her husband infuriated me through much of the novel, but how do people become victims? They are often raised under the thumbs of tyrannical parents, cowered, lacking confidence, certainly it seems that Ab, despite his success is still trying to attain his father’s respect. Ab isn’t the only one in the family who has submitted to his father’s rule.

When Ginny learns the secret of who the people defending Willowridge against the parents who have filed a class action suit are, her fury grows. How can she fight when the law isn’t on her side, when she doesn’t have money. Despite this swell of love for her child, so too does she love her husband, her six-year-old son Peyton and her good life, but sometimes you have to make a choice, especially when your child has no voice of their own! People are either with you, or they are against you. Sometimes, you have to find the strength to go against those who know best.

These are imperfect characters, and shamed by their choices. The truth is, the only characters my love went to was Lucy and Peyton. I would love to see a lot more interaction between them, he went from being an only child to suddenly being big brother to a special little girl who will need him for the rest of her life. It’s a unique relationship. I think I would have liked to see more fight against husband and wife, I wanted to see Ginny in all her avenging glory, especially towards her father-in-law, but maybe that’s just my thirst for drama and justice. Ginny was too much the type of woman who just floated along and let others decide everything and I can’t think of a horror worse than that. I just couldn’t understand how in two years, as a mother, she didn’t go visit her child. I understand she was bullied into giving her up, but in all that time after the birth she wouldn’t be raging against being denied the chance to see her? Feeble minded or not, hell couldn’t keep me away from my child. It would eat away at my mind, soul every day of my life. It’s hard to relate to such a weak character, but at least she finally finds some backbone.

Strange, our throw away society, that takes anyone who is different and tries to forget they exist at all. Times are changing, in many parts of the world, but the true horror is that abuses happen all the time, not just to children with special needs, but to the elderly and ill more often than we want to admit. This novel will be a great choice for serious discussion.

Publication Date: August 6, 2019

St. Martin’s Press

 

The Behavior of Love: A Novel by Virginia Reeves

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What are you doing, Edmund? Trying to wake her up. She is not yours to wake.

Penelope is Doctor Ed Malinowski’s favorite patient, “one of the few bright spots” in the metal hospital he is the superintendent of. From the beginning of the novel, Edmund shows himself to be a logical man, one who desperately wants to fix the shipwreck the facility is. A doctor who sees his patients beyond their illnesses, one whose art classes led by his wife, and reading groups he and another patient heads are just the sort of PR they need, after the disaster the last superintendent up and left behind. Poetry and discussion, talk about ‘feelings’, a fresh approach to treating what ails the patients behind the walls. But it is Penelope that consumes Ed more than any other. Sixteen years old, beautiful, with keen intelligence whose unpredictable seizures have made her a part of the institution, a place she never should have been sent to. It isn’t long before Ed forces Penelope’s presence on Laura, claiming it is for the “stimulation” her art classes can provide. Her refusal won’t be tolerated, it seems Penelope is her curse, meant to creep in every crevice of Laura’s life, already the focus of her husband’s every thought. How does a wife voice her fury without looking like a monster, jealous of a wounded little bird?

Yet, Ed doesn’t really want his wife working in the hospital, he has spent an inordinate amount of time on keeping his life compartmentalized, as much as his heart. Maybe Laurawill finally get pregnant, then she will have to stay away and remain home. Maybe then this art class won’t seem like a lifeline for her. It’s what they both want, to have a little family. As calm, collected as he must appear for his patients, his reactions when it comes to Penelope gives him away. He is spending far too much time with her, surely it’s not going unnoticed. Ed’s work as a behavioral psychologist is one he is proud of, patients are being treated, released. He is the man for the job, if he can’t turn the place around, no one can. The institution, however, this great opportunity for his career is stealing him away from Laura, and for all his keen observation and care for the patients, it is his wife he doesn’t see. She doesn’t feel real, solid, not when she feels invisible and unwanted. Laura sees him with perfect clarity, and everything he has been up to.  “The Ed at my feet has only the troubles he’s sought out, a career helping broken people and broken places- broken things that do not include him. He has always been on the outside of suffering.” But will our Ed stay outside it all?

There is a love triangle, and a woman always knows when she is being eclipsed by another in her husband’s thoughts and longings. Under his watchful eye, Penelope is getting better and epilepsy is no longer a reason to institutionalize patients, but is Ed ready to let her go? Will he cross the line and allow himself to express the love he feels for her? Will he risk losing Laura for a taste of sweet youth? Can he keep his passions on a tight leash? Ed commits to saving so many people who need him, but it’s his own house that is crumbling.

Timing is the thing, it seems, and time can be cruel. A heart can’t build two houses within. All of our existence is about our perception, in the end, and Laura’s isn’t the same as Ed’s. Just what does Pen feel about the great Dr. Ed Malinowski? Can a man keep the love and adoration of two women going? What happens when the Doctor becomes the patient? Admittedly, the part of the story I chewed on the most is when Ed falls apart, and it all begins with a headache in his temple. This is where real love shows it’s face and confrontation between Penelope and Laura is a long time in coming and yet not your typical climax. Love stories, the ones closest to real life, are ugly and painful and this is no exception. Ed is a complex character, egocentric and yet one of the most caring doctors when it comes to patients, a selfish spouse and yet just as hungry for connection and love as any of us, even if he keeps it all ‘one-sided’. Laura and Penelope have their tale to tell and aren’t confined on the pages by the roles they play in Ed’s heart. Neither are truly the enemy, but Ed creates a hell of a storm between the two. Ed may think he has it all figured out, and he seems to be in control for a time, but love can be controlled by no man’s hand. There will come a time when Ed himself, like his patients, may need others to bring sense and order into his life and his mind.

Publication Date: May 14, 2019

Scribner

 

 

Tell No One by Barbara Taylor Sissel

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Come back, come back, come back, as if his return- her family’s restoration to their once-upon-a-time life- were a matter of asking, or begging, or any words at all.

Caroline’s aunt Lanie is dying and desperate to see her brother, Garret “Hoff” Hoffman before she passes away. Caroline’s mother tells her ‘it’s a fool’s errand’ to even try, no one knows where he disappeared to, only that he left a trail of heartbreak behind. What caused her once loving dad to walk away? But Caroline’s beloved aunt is more like a mother to her, salvation during the years after her parents divorced. Caroline’s tender early memories seem to arise more lately and when she returns to the past and seeks out coach Kelly, she finds it troubling that his son Jace seems to be hiding something, protecting his now elderly father. Once a boy she spent happy days with, he seems to want to dodge ever question she puts to his father, even though the old coach wants to reminisce, adamantly telling her ‘dad needs to rest.’ A warning comes soon after in the form of an ‘accident’, someone really is trying to keep her from finding out what happened to her father.

Harris is the child who Hoff raised for a time when he abandoned his old life, and Caroline. Harris looked up to Hoff, with football in common as Hoff was a recruiter, he finally had a man to emulate and love, but those days are buried and he is haunted by his own terrible guilt now that he himself is a father.  One thing Caroline and Harris have in common is their failing marriages. The cracks in Caroline’s life is all about her husband Rob’s lies and betrayals, his devious business dealings but for Harris it is his increasing nightmares, closing his wife Holly out. There are some shameful secrets that cannot be told, not even to his wife but there are other things to turn to when trying to tame one’s demons. His life appears perfect on paper with his career, his beautiful sons and loyal wife. But the past can’t be buried.

Truth will out, but it isn’t always what you imagine. Bad guys, good guys sometimes the distance is only a hair’s breadth between the two. If grave moments could only remain hidden and not rise up to torment us, then the past wouldn’t haunt. In seeking answers, Caroline must come to terms with what she built up as her father’s reasons in her mind with the truth. Harris was everything Caroline could never be, the perfect son! Right? Accidents and incidents have long reaching consequences. Many of Caroline’s choices of the heart stem from feeling discarded by her father, as far back as her high school years. We are shaped by other’s actions sometimes, even when we consciously attempt to remain unaffected. At times the hand of fate, chance turns us into someone we’re not, and there is no reasoning with it. This novel dips into several stories, Caroline and her daughter reeling after discovering Rob’s deceptive crimes, while she is trying to confront her past and find her father. Holly and Harris drifting apart because he cannot confide what disturbs him. Their sons Kyle and Connor his pride but there is a wild struggle within Harris to be a better father than his own influence and yet he is failing, railing against himself. Everything that has happened returns to the moment when Caroline was still the apple of her daddy’s eyes, until her father’s fall in the stands.

This is a solid story, engaging but sometimes I wanted to stay in Caroline’s world and felt pulled in many directions. Hoff’s tale is interesting, sometimes the biggest threat doesn’t come from outside of us, but within.

Publication Date: May 14, 2019

Lake Union Publishing

 

 

 

 

Ask Again, Yes: A Novel by Mary Beth Keane

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It didn’t seem that important, not nearly as important as people would make it. It was just a thing that happened, same as all other things that happened.

Two young NYPD rookies partnered up for a time in 1973 later become neighbors, though not exactly friends, Francis finds Brian to be ‘a likable guy.’ So when Brian ends up in the house Francis once told him about , it seems fitting his wife Lena would befriend Brian’s wife Anne. Lena certainly makes an effort, trying her best to quietly offer support, always met with Anne’s back retreating into her home, finding offense to any offer of help, wondering what she could have possibly done to offend her. At a loss to understand Anne’s off-putting behavior, Lena focuses instead on her own family, both women give birth to children only six months apart, Peter and Kate.  Despite the relationship between their mothers, Peter and Kate become close friends as they come of age but their childhoods couldn’t be any more different.

There is something wrong with Peter’s mother, even as a little girl Kate notices Anne isn’t like other moms. It’s the very thing Peter’s own father doesn’t acknowledge, to his way of thinking she just needs help around the house, rest, quiet. The problem is Peter never is sure which mother is going to appear each day, if she will ’emerge after a few days’ from her room and be his favorite version or be irritated by the noise a little boy can’t help but make. Life in his home is about forecasting her moods, in order to navigate his day. Of course he loves her, despite her growing indifference. Her troubling behavior becomes impossible to hide, it’s more than just being ‘sensitive.’ Their problems are beginning to spill out of the house.

Something about Kate gets under Anne’s skin, and Lena wants Kate to just find a new friend, anyone but Peter! No love is lost between the women. Something is humming beneath the surface and in one moment their lives are altered forever. We follow the aftermath of one horror filled moment, and watch as every character tries to build a new life from the ruins. Peter feels staggeringly helpless when the most important people are absented from his world, but nothing rips him apart more than losing Kate.

In staying true to our nature, helping others, we could risk losing everything. One incident can drive a wedge between spouses, destroy young love, and shake up our future. Kate and Peter are destined never to forget each other, but coming together again is for some a bigger betrayal. Love and loyalty is tested, more than just the meaning of family. This book is disturbing and deeply moving, we know the hand that brings down destruction, but to demonize isn’t so simple in this story. Mary Beth Keane has written a story with mental illness at the forefront, and how with Anne’s decline it’s the failure of those around her that sets the stage for tragedy. Why do we go on like everything is fine? There are so many people within us all, how different we are when life tests us.

Marriage is explored too, in how Brian tiptoes around in his, how our partners needs often eclipse our own as witnessed by Lena’s loneliness and Francis’s need for trees and quiet, a place separate from his job, his grueling work. The way things shift after the incident, why the act happened at all, due in part to one partner’s helplessness in understanding his own wives deterioration. Infidelity, loyalty, sticking when things are hopeless. Marriage is a different beast when life beats us, so different from when we’re fresh and young.

Time moves on and life closes in on us but sometimes it is only the broken people who truly understand our struggle. Sometimes you face the enemy only to see roles aren’t set in stone. Things really do sometimes come full circle, and my heart was in my throat at the end. We cannot outrun that which shapes us and while we don’t have to be victims, we’re not untouchable when it comes to things we inherit from our former selves, or our families, loved ones. There will always come a time you have to confront the chaos of a moment. Yes, add this to your TBR list!

Publication Date: May 28, 2019

Scribner