Generations Of Finding Oneself. In this semi-dual timeline book, we get a pair (well, more two and a half) of stories about finding yourself and refusing to settle. Through diary entries that mysteriously get texted to our female lead, we see how her grandmother struggled as a newly married wife and then later sporadically throughout her years. Meanwhile, said female lead is coming to some realizations herself… while our male lead is having a reckoning with his father and finding himself at the same time he finds himself reconnecting with our female lead. Truly a great interwoven family tale, one where the leads from Book 1 in the series – The Country Cottage – play fairly significant roles. So read that one first, but even then – both of these books are short enough that by the time you’ve read the two combined, you’ve read what is still a shortish more “normal” length novel. Thus, both are great for those times when you just need a quick escape or something that you can easily read say at a soccer game or waiting on a layover or some such. Very much recommended.
Excellent Debut. First off, I have to thank a very particular PR person at St Martin’s – they know who they are, I’m not going to publicly name them in this review. I had requested this book on NetGalley around the time I first saw it there, and after several weeks languishing in my “Pending Requests” queue there, I finally contacted a contact at SMP I’ve worked with on various other ARCs and Blog Tours in the past, and that person was able to approve my request for this book, and viola. I’m reading it. 😀 So while I normally don’t even mention this level of activity in reviews, this effort was unusual and therefore it deserves this unusual step of thanking the person involved directly in the review.
Having told (vaguely) the story of how I obtained this ARC, let me now note what I actually thought about the book, shall I? 😀
As I said in the title, this really was an excellent debut. There are a lot of various plot threads weaving themselves in and out of focus over the course of 60 or so years, and anyone of a few particular generations, particularly those from small towns, will be able to identify readily with many of these threads. In 2008, we get a grandmother waiting to reveal some secrets to her twentysomething/ thirtysomething grand daughter – this actually opens the book. Then we get both the grandmother’s life story – up to a particular pivotal summer – interspersed with the granddaughter’s life story – mostly focused on two summers in particular, but with some updates in between. The jumps in time are sequential, but not always evenly spaced, so for example we start the grandmother’s tale during WWII when she is serving as a nurse and is courted – in the rushed manner of the era – by a charming doctor. When we come back to her tale after spending some time in the granddaughter’s life, we may be days later or we may be years later, depending on how deep in the story we are at this point. Similarly, when we leave the granddaughter in 1994, we may come back to later that summer or we may come back to 1999. (Or even, more commonly for the granddaughter’s tale, back to 2008.) 2008 serves as “now”, and the histories of the two women remain sequential throughout the tale. The editing, at the beginning of the chapter, always makes clear where we are in the timeline, and yet this style of storytelling *can* be jarring for some. So just be aware of this going in.
But as a tale of generational ideas, aspirations, and difficulties… this tale completely works on so very many levels. Perhaps because I find myself of a similar age as the granddaughter, and thus much of what she lives, I’ve also lived – particularly as it relates to a small town home town and its divisions.
And, for me, Hume actually has a line near the end of the tale (beyond the 90% mark) that truly struck a chord: “Haven Point has its flaws, of course it does. But while it might not be the magic that some pretend, there was never really the rot she claimed either.” Perhaps the same could be said of my own “small town” (it now has a population north of 100K) home town.
Ultimately, this was a phenomenal work that many will identify with but some may struggle with. I will dare compare it to The Great Gatsby in that regard and in this one: keep with the struggle. It is worth it. Very much recommended.