By Sarah Carter
You know how there are some books that are as adored and as cherished as an old good friend? Books that somehow have mood-changing enchantment contained within the first few pages? This is the kind of book for me. I’m not going to spill the beans too much about this book because I don’t want to ruin it for you and to some extent, I also don’t think I can ever do it justice.
Claudia Reynolds Thornton, an investigative reporter, is taken aback when 30-year-old family secrets came to light, creating a present-day crisis. In her pursuit to get to the bottom of the family secrecy, she tracks down more mysteries, past and present, which challenge her values and beliefs. Exploring her ancestors' emotional evolutions against the backdrop of romance, racism and ritual responsibility, Claudia is struck by the enduring faith and courage the women show as they face heartache, and disappointment. Reflecting on their collective narratives from the past, Claudia discovers surprising truths about herself and her family that help her handle her trials.
I thought this book is excellent. A wonderful, well-written book, it covers the lives of multiple generations of a single family. Phoenix seems to really know the art of well-timed revelation, waiting until just the exact moment to let something slip, giving a different angle, or totally blow your mind. Although most readers describe it as a fast read, I read it slowly because each chapter revealed secrets about a different generation and gave me insights regarding human behaviour and changing social climates in America that I wanted to contemplate for a while. When I finished reading, I closed the book, let out a big sigh of contentment and sadness at the same time. The characters in this book feel real. They have real problems and real flaws, but they are also appealing and good—just like real people. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they actually existed. On the other hand, it’s so beautiful and nostalgic-feeling that you can’t help believe that it’s also a story—and a good one. I think this is a great piece of historical fiction. I wish all fiction books were more like this—well-written, well-executed, telling an interesting story without weighing too heavily or moving too lightly. I highly recommend it.