Two years ago, O’Neal’s 2018 book The Art of Inheriting Secrets was one of the very first Featured New Release posts here. A year ago, her 2019 release When We Believed In Mermaids was also a Featured New Release. Today, we continue that emerging tradition with O’Neal’s newest release.
And I admit, at first I didn’t think I really had enough to say about this book to be able to give it this slot. But when I sat down to write the Goodreads et al review, it turned out I had more to say than I thought, so here we are.
This book doesn’t have Secrets‘ sense of discovery and wonder. It doesn’t convey the abject pain and heartbreak and waterworks of Mermaids either. What it does have, and what it shows remarkably well from many different angles, is the drama of how certain events can play out in the lives of family across multiple generations. Just to use the same example I used in the Goodreads review, in particular it shows how the second generation’s decision to begin living her life for herself – when her daughter, the third generation, was still a child – plays out not just with her daughter, but also her mother (first generation) and her daughter’s daughter (fourth generation). We see the complexities of the mother/ daughter relationship between 2 and 3, but we also see 1 and 4’s perspectives on it and how that decision impacted each of their lives. There are multiple other similar issues between various groupings of the four, and O’Neal does a remarkable job of balancing each voice.
A bit of action near the end feels a bit out of place, but wraps up the primary external plot thread in a way that manages to feed into the drama between the family members.
All in all an excellent display of O’Neal’s storytelling abilities, and one not to be missed. (Though you can largely leave the handkerchief at home for this one, fortunately.) Very much recommended.
As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
Solid Tale Of Intergenerational Drama. This is my third book from O’Neal, after 2018’s The Art of Inheriting Secrets and 2019’s When We Believed In Mermaids, and she continues to show her strength as a storyteller in continuing to spin new tales with new emphases on different things, all while being solidly centered on a woman’s (or a few womens’, in this case) perspective. Here we don’t see quite the wistful what-could-have-been of Secrets, nor do we get anywhere *near* the waterworks and trauma of Mermaids, but we do get a solid tale of four generations of women who have each had their own issues with the others of their line, and who each have to work to resolve those issues. It touches on so many different issues, some in the zeitgeist of the last few years, others more muted in discussions but felt internally nonetheless, and it does all of them a fair degree of justice in its explorations from several angles. For example, the third generation has decades of resentment for the second, after the second abandoned her to the first while she went off to a far away land. We get the tales of both the third and the second, but we also see perspectives from the first and fourth on how they see the drama between second and third having played out in both of their lives, and how it has impacted the lives of first and fourth themselves. And that is just one of the many issues we see, all of them featuring similar complexities in storytelling. The bit of action near the end does feel a bit out of place, but adds another less explored bit of zeitgeist commentary into the book even as it feels a touch tacked on. All in all, a truly solid effort and very much recommended.