What A Tangled Web We Weave. This was a strong story of finding yourself, even if that happens a bit later than some would like and creates a bit of a mess. And it was a strong story of ever lasting love, treachery, and forgiveness. All set (mostly) in the idyllic Tuscan countryside. The pacing was solid, the dual timeline worked well – even if a sense of foreboding hung over one of the timelines its entire duration. (We learn early in the book – Chapter 1, IIRC – how that timeline ultimately turns out, so getting there is wonderful, yet also like watching a replay of a momentous event… that you know turns out in disaster.) Overall, the writing here really speaks to the strength of Maclean’s storytelling abilities and shows them to be quite strong indeed. Very much recommended.
“So Many Secrets. So Many Lies. And So Much Anger.” Yes, the title of this review is a direct quote from the book. Yes, it is during the final 10%, when everything is being revealed and wrapped up. And yet you still have no idea what it actually refers to. 😉 But that particular line really does sum the book up in and of itself. This is a four person family consisting of mom and dad who have been married for over 20 years, 20 yo college dropout son, and 17yo high school junior daughter – and *every single one of them* are keeping secrets from all the others and actively lying to both the other people and themselves. Harding does a tremendous job of showing flawed, nuanced characters just trying to do what they think is right with limited information… sometimes with tragic results. No one comes out looking squeaky clean, and yet no one comes out looking overly monstrous either. Great job of showing just how murky real life often is. Very much recommended.
Complicated Yet Beautiful. Hawker has a way of painting pictures with words that are utterly beautiful, and yet also utterly ugly at the same time. Ultimately, this book reads like a more evocative, more painting quality version of the somewhat similar story David Duchovny created in Truly Like Lightning, even as it seems that both authors were working on these works for quite a number of years. Particularly in their showing of the worse sides of Mormon life, complete with overbearing and hypocritical fathers, this reads almost like as much an attack on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as the character study that it is. And yet, again, the way Hawker executes it here is utterly beautiful in its prose and storytelling. Hawker sucks you in, weaving these plot threads near and around each other before bringing them all together to grand effect. Ultimately the biggest quibble with this entire effort isn’t Hawker’s writing, but the actual description of the book – which leads one to believe certain aspects arguably happen sooner than they do. Indeed, Linda becoming “privy to a secret Aran and Tamsin share that could dismantle everything everyone holds dear” happens quite late (later than 80%, maybe even closer to the 90% mark), though again, the actual execution here is quite solid and indeed allows the book to end in surprising ways that were only very subtly hinted at much earlier. Even Aran and Lucy getting together to begin with seems to happen much later in the tale than the description seems to indicate, though that relationship *is* particularly well developed. Ultimately this is a book that Mormons likely won’t like, people with various misconceptions about Mormonism will probably tout, but one that tells a remarkable tale in the end. Recommended.