This book review was published on Reedsy/Discovery.
The story begins in 2018 when Elizabeth is 64 years old, cleaning out the Indiana home in which she grew up. You find Elizabeth at a pivotal time in her life, preparing the family farm and home for auction. She had retired early to care for her ailing father. The confluence of her father’s passing and feelings of neglect by a husband who worked too many late nights left a void in her life. It was the perfect recipe for intense introspection and surging curiosity of how her life could have been had she followed a different path. Haven’t we all been there?
As Elizabeth dives into letters from a teenage pen pal, Henry, and remembers her best friend, Anna, another timeline emerges in a parallel story that begins 50 years earlier. Elizabeth, or Lizzie as she was known in childhood, is the main character. I was captivated as Elizabeth delved into decades of memories, desperately longing for revelations to unanswered questions, and I was swept away with Lizzie’s journey from teenager to grandmother.
The story is written in the third person, allowing you to observe interactions and innuendos between the characters in an attempt to read between the lines of covert conversations. In real life, adults are characteristically elusive when discussing sensitive topics around children, and Deborah Martin skillfully uses this paternalistic prowess to set the stage for the mysteries that Elizabeth yearns to unravel.
The characters are well-developed, and the story is interspersed with relatable sentiments:
Remembering life as a young mother, Elizabeth recalled:
“She had craved release from the days of doldrums, but looking back, Elizabeth shuddered with the speed at which the intervening years had disappeared.“
Browsing through catalogue brochures, she noted:
“There were always so many promises that their products could clear your clutter or make your life easier. A better, more perfect life always seemed just out of reach.“
There are no perfect people in this story. Elizabeth’s diffidence and vulnerability are endearing qualities. The ending brings closure for Elizabeth and leaves the reader satisfied as well. I recommend this book to contemporary fiction readers, especially women, since we are generally inclined to bring the past forward and fret about the future as we question our place in the present.