Showing posts with label family. Show all posts
Showing posts with label family. Show all posts

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Facts of Life by Paula Knight


Rating: WORTHY!

This was another library book. The author, Paula Knight, changed her name to Polly in the book as she changed everyone else's name too, so it wasn't too personal, but it is in fact a very personal story told by a graduate (BA in Graphic Design form Bristol Polytechnic in England about her pursuit of a pregnancy and her grappling with a fatigue syndrome.

Paula/Polly grew up an only child and tells an interesting and moving, and humorous story about her life beginning with hanging out with her best friend, learning about sex, and spending more and more time as she matured, wondering if she ever wanted to have children. In the end she discovered she had ME/CFS, which is myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, a very disabling illness which an come back and bite you often. It resulted in her losing all her energy at times, and feeling like everything was real struggle.

When she finally found the partner she wanted to be with, she was in her mid thirties and starting to feel a 'now or never' imperative to having a child of her own. When they began to seriously try, however, she and her partner repeatedly got the reward of very brief pregnancies ending in miscarriage, After trying IVF, she and her partner gave up. It was only then that she began to notice how pervasive 'pronatalism' - the idea that a family consists of mom, dad, and one or more children - truly is in society.

Illustrated by the author in simple gray-scale line drawings, this novel is well imagined and well executed, and (be warned!) takes a no holds barred approach to telling her story of sexuality, of growing up in Britain in the seventies and eighties, of learning, of struggling, of disappointment, and finally of coming through it all with a new perspective on life. I really liked the story and I recommend it.


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Amanda Prose would work well as this author's name too, since this was well-written and flowed so nicely! It told an engaging story and told it well. I am not a fan of novels which carry too much unleavened negativity, but this one avoided that, despite the painful topic it dealt with.

Nina McCarrick is living 'high on the hog' as they say in the USA, in an almost palatial home with her self-employed husband, Finn, and her two fine sons: Connor and Declan, who attend an exclusive private school. She's made her profession that of a full-time housewife and homemaker.

When Finn dies in a car accident, Nina is left alone with the boys, and as if this isn't bad enough, soon her whole world begins to crumble around her as she learns that her husband has run-up eight million pounds in debt on a bad investment in a construction job that his business was trying to negotiate, but which fell through.

Nina had no idea they were stretched so thin, since she was kept entirely in the dark about his business. He always assured her things were fine. Worse than this, as if it could get any worse, their house was tied-up in the company's finances, having been mortgaged to raise funds, and they are going to have to leave. Everywhere she looks, things seem blacker. Their savings are gone, and men show up one day to strip her home of anything saleable. Connor only manages to retain his laptop because it's for his education.

Nina and her kids must leave their home and she cannot think of anywhere she can go. Her family is unable to help and her snotty neighbors do not want to know her any more. Her sister steps up and manages to find her a place that's owned by an uncle, but she still has to pay rent. She figures she has enough to get them though two months, but she desperately needs to find a job - one for which she has zero qualifications or training because she has not worked since she married. Her endless, fruitless job search is heartbreaking to read. It's sad to think that the civilized world end up this way if the Business President™ continues his current insanely reckless course!

The rental place is minuscule compared with what Nina's used to, and it's cold during this winter of Nina's profound discontent, but it's a home of a sort, and Nina is now back in her home town of Southampton, close by where her sister lives - and surprisingly simply compared with what Nina's old life provided.

This is a sister with whom she has barely been in touch over the years. Nina could not shed her background fast enough once she met Finn all those years ago, and she has not looked back since, but now she finds she is having her face rubbed in her failings every time she turns around.

This story follows Nina as she tries to hold not only herself together, but her family and her life. She has to weather some dark times, and deal with her older son's anger and despair at having his comfortable life taken from him so speedily and abruptly. She bounces unpredictably between anger at her husband's betrayal and secrecy, and her pain at losing him, between fear for their future and hope that things will turn around.

I really appreciated that this author is smart enough to make this story about Nina and her strength,golden goose and rescue her from the dragon of disaster that seems constantly looming over her. I really liked this story, it was a fast comfortable read, and had interesting and engaging characters. It was realistic and enjoyable, and I recommend it. I shall look for other novels by this author.


Sunday, September 3, 2017

Bunny Drop Vo 2 by Yumi Unita


Rating: WORTHY!

How could I not pick this up at the library when the author's name might sound like 'yummy' and the title is Bunny Drop? It could have been bad, but in the end, although a little bit on the long side (and this was volume 2 in a series), it was an enjoyable read. I have not read volume one but I think I will try to get hold of that.

In volume one, Daikichi Kawachi finds himself the guardian of a six-year-old girl, Rin Kaga, who was living with his grandfather until the old man died. Rin (who has his grandfather's last name) was given up by her mother, and raised by Daikichi's grandfather and a helper who worked for him. Now Daikichi is the 'dad'.

This volume follows their life as Rin becomes ready to start elementary school, and it gives us quite an education on the pressure put on students and parents in Japan, as they have to compete to get into a good elementary school to kick-off their education, and Daikichi has to worry about whether Rin will be victimized because she does not bear the same family name as he has.

The story also works its way towards an interesting encounter with Rin's actual mom, who has her own story to tell which sounds like rather a selfish one to me.

It's amusingly and sensitively written, and beautifully-drawn (black and white line-drawings with some shading), and tells an engaging story, but I think it is a bit overdrawn - not in the art, but in the telling. I think a few trees would have appreciated this if it had been more compact. I sure would, but I am not going to negatively rate it for that. I just hope publishers and authors start to think about the impact of their work on the environment before they start writing their series, and especially their YA trilogy clones that could be told in one volume or better yet, not at all.

As for this, I recommend it.


Friday, June 9, 2017

Every Family is a Little Nuts by AJ Cosmo


Rating: WARTY!

On balance I've liked this author's children's books, but I didn't get the point of this one! I mean, yeah, obviously it examines a slightly dysfunctional family, but it never seemed to go anywhere, and there really was no happy resolution, which some children might find rather disturbing.

If there's one thing children definitely need, it's the feeling of security. The story in general was not awful, and the illustration was charming, but the poor squirrel, Wally, really didn't seem to get any satisfaction and I think this is a mistake.

The story involves some unspecified holiday with gift giving, so from a religious festival PoV, it's quite neutral, which is a good thing, but Wally seems to get buffeted around without going anywhere, and has tasks put on him without seeming to garner any satisfaction from them or from a sense of helping or duty. None of this is really pursued, so the opportunity to teach some lessons here seemed wasted to me. I get that life isn't fair and there is no expectation of a reward, nor should there necessarily be for helping people, and children at some point need to understand this, but even this lesson seemed to become lost in the welter of activity and disconnected events. I can't recommend this one, but I do recommend this author in general.


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Sisters Chase by Sarah Healy


Rating: WORTHY!

Note that this is based on an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This was a charming story from start to finish, keeping my interest and proving to be a very fast read with a sudden ending that took me by surprise, since I hadn't realized I was so close to the end of the novel. This is the price of an ebook: you get no tactile feel for the dwindling pages! But it definitely took my breath away in more than one way.

If I had any real complaint, it was about the flashbacks. Other readers may appreciate these, but I am no more a fan of flashbacks than I am of prologues. Maybe some writers think they're cool, or edgy, or 'the thing to do', but for me flashbacks bring the story to screeching halt when all I want to do is keep abreast of what's happening now, not what took place a decade before. To me they're irritating at best, and antagonizing at worst. I rather quickly took to skipping over these and they did not - as far as I can tell - reduce my enjoyment or understanding of the story one iota. So I rest my case!

Seriously, for me the story would have been better served had the flashbacks been incorporated into a 'part one', or better yet, as long as you want to put in some remembrances of things past as it were, I'd rather read them in-line with the story as an occasional thought here and there, and I know this author is quite capable of that, because she writes beautifully. I look forward to her next opus with anticipation!

The other issue is relatively minor, and relates to this being an ARC, and not yet quite ready for prime time. The formatting in the Kindle app on my phone was a bit ragged here and there, with a line ending mid-screen and being continued on the line below, or a paragraph offset from the body of text when it was not supposed to be.

There was also the occasional wrong word in the wrong place, which no spell-checker will catch, such as "the thrown secure" when it should be presumably, 'the throne secure', and "Where'd you here that?" when it should clearly have been 'Where'd you hear that'. The price of auto-correct! If you're a writer, turn the damned thing off!

But let's talk about the joy of this novel, because this is far more important than anything else. As I indicated, it was passionately and beautifully written, evocative as hell, and it told a truly realistic and gripping story of two half-sisters, aptly named Chase, since the whole time we're reading this, they're chasing something. Unfortunately it's not the same thing they're chasing, but this only becomes apparent as they mature.

The story flows wonderfully. The girls age about a decade as the book follows its course, and the author does this so well that you do not notice any gaps - not as gaps anyway! Major Kudos for that. Mary is a decade older than her stepsister, and the odd thing is that both girls' parentage is hazy. They know for sure who their mom is, but dad is a less well-defined concept. The thing is though, that Mary, after an initial ambivalence, becomes fiercely devoted to Hannah, whom she calls 'Bunny' due to an event we learn nothing of until the very end of the story. Hannah never seems to resent this name even when she's in her teens.

It's a name that's also evocative of a life running from one place to another, just as Mary's nickname, 'Mare', is evocative of 'nightmare', which is what her life feels like at times, as she struggles to keep the two of them together, ahead of trouble and creditors, and fed and clothed. Initially Bunny goes along with Mary's travel plans because Mary is very skilled at what she does - not only at lifting a few dollars here and there from the wallets of guests at the hotels she finds work in, but also in spinning a fairy-tale of two princess struggling to avoid evil, which Hannah eats up as a child.

Just when Mary thinks she's found her prince charming, her past rises-up to set the sisters chasing again along the highways of the US, trying to get away from their nemesis and keep it together. It's only as Hannah begins to mature herself, that it becomes clear to the reader that these girls are as different as their fathers were, each having their own conflicting goals. You'll discover the power of this novel for yourself, and I promise you'll be upset, but not disappointed. I recommend this unreservedly.


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Clementine and the Family Meeting by Sara Pennypacker


Rating: WORTHY!

I never knew exactly what a penny-packer did for a living, but now I do: she writes great stories for kids! This was a fun book for middle-graders. I haven't read any others in this series, but this one worked as a stand-alone. it was smart, inventive, and entertaining even for an adult reader because of Clementine's quirky take on her life and her interactions with everyone she encounters.

Clementine is apparently prone to get into trouble one way or another, and when she learns there is to be a family meeting at home one evening, she panics because she can't remember doing anything wrong lately and is mystified as to why a meeting should be in order. It turns out that the family is going to be welcoming a newcomer: mom is pregnant!

Naturally Clementine has issues with this, being perfectly happy with her four-square family. Adding a fifth to the mix knocks everything off kilter as far as she's concerned, and as if that wasn't bad enough, her rat has escaped - the one she was working with in a science experiment at school. And she;s lost her favorite winter hat - the one grandma knitted for her.

Marla Frazee's line drawing are great, and very evocative. Sometimes her perspective is a little off - Clementine seems to shrink to almost half her size when she goes to talk with her teacher one day at recess. That aside, I liked the drawings and the take on life shown here, as well as the well-written ending. I recommend this (and perhaps the others in the series too, if they're anything like this one).


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Rosco the Rascal Visits the Pumpkin Patch by Shana Gorian


Rating: WORTHY!

Just in time for Halloween and in plenty of time for Thanksgiving, this is a middle-grade chapter book with some illustrations set around this time of year (assuming you're reading this in late October and you're in the northern hemisphere!). It has its roots in a real dog owned by the author, but the story is fictional. It's part of a series, and you can get another one in the series free by signing up for the author's mailing list.

Rosco (which I keep wanting to add an 'e' to so it looks less like a corporate name!) is in the McKendrick family, which consists of mom, dad, and two children, ten year old James, and seven-year-old Mandy. In this adventure, they visit the pumpkin patch where dad wants to procure a giant pumpkin to carve for Halloween. Rosco is a bit naughty at times, but it all comes from his desire to have fun and run-off excess energy. To be fair, he also has some very positive traits, though. He's very protective of children, and both his naughtiness and his protectiveness play a role in this story, as they enjoy the outdoors, take part in activities on the pumpkin farm, and get lost in the corn maze - which turns out to be fortunate for an even younger child who's in there, also lost. And very afraid. And hurt.

I'm not a big fan of "intelligent" dog and cat stories because in my sad experience the authors make them so human that they're no longer dogs or cats, so really, what's the point? In this case, though, I loved the way the author seems to get inside the dog's head, making it appear very human in a very doglike way, without turning it into a completely unbelievable human substitute. The story wasn't written for my age range, but even so it was fun, interesting, realistic, believable, and very entertaining. It carried positive messages and had a warm and happy ending. I recommend this for kids of all ages.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Baker's Dozen by Aaron Shepherd


Rating: WORTHY!

This is an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Beautifully illustrated, this Christmas story (actually set on and around Saint Nicholas's Day, which falls in early December), tells a highly fanciful tale of how a "baker's dozen" came to be thirteen rather than the actual twelve there is in a dozen. In fact it's because bakers in the past (as early as the eighteenth century if not before) didn't want to be fined for shorting their customers so they added one more to their 'dozen' (a term which comes from the French) for good measure. No one is going to complain about getting something for nothing, right?

In this story however, a rather gluttonous woman puts a curse on the baker for giving her only twelve "cookies" (a term which actually derives from a Dutch word koekje) when she'd requested a dozen. The baker's business falls into a disastrous decline until he decides to give thirteen instead of twelve for a dozen, whereupon his business flourishes! I don't know if this is the reverse of the real spirit of Christmas in our capitalistic age, where less is more - profitable!, or if it actually embodies it!

The real joy of this story though, apart from the happy ending, is Wendy Edelson's gorgeous illustrations in full color, which hark back if not to a Dickensian Christmas age, hark certainly back to a Rockwellian one. Beautifully done in great detail and in rich earth tones, ornamented with Christmas reds and whites, the images are a joy, but you cannot enjoy them at their best in electronic form unfortunately. This is very much intended as a print book, and the tablet version breaks up the images in unfortunately and uncomplimentary ways. This is the really the kind of book you have to buy in the print version and leave on the coffee table over the holidays! And perhaps that's just as well. A little old fashioned never hurt anyone at Christmas, now did it?


Friday, June 19, 2015

Picture of Grace by Josh Armstrong


Title: Picture of Grace
Author: Josh Armstrong
Publisher: Joshua E. Armstrong
Rating: WORTHY!

Illustrated by Taylor Bills.

Some children's authors unfortunately feel that young children are an easy mark and not worth much time, and the path to success is via a series of cheap illustrations and a silly rhyme, and you're in business. This author isn't one of those, and neither is this illustrator, Taylor Bills, I am so happy to report!

I've been lucky with the children's books I've reviewed, and I've found very few of them to be sub-standard, but I get to chose which ones I review, so I have an advantage! I try to review these books positively if I can because while children don't deserve less than adults, they are, bless their little cotton socks, far less critical and are willing (as I am in fact), to forgo excellence and finery if they can get a great story and/or some engrossing art work, and especially so if it's educational. This is one reason why I was so thrilled with the two books I'm reviewing today, because both of them are really, really excellent. On the other hand, it is Friday, so maybe I'm just in a thoroughly good mood. Naw, these books are great any day of the week!

This particular book is a truly remarkable story about a young girl and her grandfather, who is an artist. The gallery owner, Delilah, is obnoxious and is demanding this one last painting, insisting he have it done in only two weeks. She doesn't care about his protests. She may know a lot about art but she's doesn't know what it's like! When grandpa dies, no doubt due to stress, Delilah sees this as a good thing because his last painting, even if unfinished, will appreciate in value immensely.

Grace doesn't see art that way. She sees the last picture her grandfather began, but never finished, and she decides to help him out. As relatives and friends stop by to see the painting, they encounter a gallery owner whose face is bluer than grace's mom's clothes, but what they notice isn't that - it's the painting. There is a special meaning with which grandpa imbued it, and Grace's contribution can be seen only as the icing on the cake, notwithstanding Delilah's frosty demeanor. Crumbs! I loved this book and recommend it.

I wouldn't try reading it on a Smart-phone; the illustrations are discernible, but the text is not. On an iPad, which permitted, thankfully, the expanding of the pictures, it's eminently readable. I can't speak for the print version which I have no seen.


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Cassidy's Guide to Everyday Etiquette (and Obfuscation) by Sue Stauffacher

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Title: Cassidy's Guide to Everyday Etiquette (and Obfuscation)
Author: Sue Stauffacher
Publisher: Random House
Rating: WORTHY!


DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review. The chance to read a new book is often enough reward aplenty!

This book was hilarious and I recommend it whole-heartedly. Yes, there was a more-than-minor character named Jack Taylor, which would normally cause me to jack this in, but he wasn't the main character so I was willing, in this one instance, to tolerate him in the small doses where he was present. I loved Cassidy's attitude to life, and her relationship with her sister.

The story here is that Cassidy's great grandmother has died and in her will she condemned (that's what it feels like to Cassidy) the poor girl to attend etiquette school two days a week during one month of her summer holiday. Cassidy bristles and rebels at this.

This story went from joy to joy. I completely adored the author's tone and voice - even though it was first person. Normally that's a voice I don't appreciate, but once in a while an author makes it work, and this is a sterling example of how to do it. The text is full of sly assessments, and astute and amusing remarks such as this observation from Cassidy: "I knew better than to say anything about the value of my time. Adults and kids have never seen eye to eye on that subject."

I don't know what it was, but Cassidy won me over from the off, and she kept on winning me over, although I have to admit, Livvy ran her a close thing. Cassidy was perhaps a bit more mature than you'd expect for her age, but I was willing to forgive her that in the same way I forgave Bill Watterson for the same thing in his totally awesome Calvin and Hobbes cartoons.

Cassidy is a smart, adventurous, curious, and self-possessed girl of eleven who is fearless and confident. She's not a bad person by any means, but her aggressive approach to life tends to land her in water that's decidedly, shall I say, too temperature-challenged for her taste? You can imagine then, the difficulties inherent in any attempt to teach her etiquette. It's precisely this ocean of endeavor upon which the author has chosen to launch Cassidy Corcoran.

Here's another joyous quotation: "Miss Melton-Mowry decided to ignore me. It's a normal developmental stage for every one of my teachers." And another from a conversation Cassidy has with another attendee of the etiquette class when they discover they have an acquaintance in common:

"What's the polite-conversation word for smart aleck?"
"High energy...original mind...future politician?" I replied, quoting my report cards from memory.

And one more for good measure:

"Nice to meet you, Dr. Bean."
"And you, Cassidy. Your reputation precedes you."
"That's usually how it works."

I'm not going to tell you how this goes, because it's a journey that you have to take for yourself - with Cassidy as your guide. Be prepared for a strenuous outing, though: it goes from height to height, but it's awesome terrain. I am totally on board with this and looking out for other books by this author now.


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Carrot by Vanita Oelschlanger


Title: Carrot
Author: Vanita Oelschlanger
Publisher: VanitaBooks
Rating: WORTHY!

Illustrated by Kristin Blackwood.


DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review. The chance to read a new book is often enough reward aplenty!

Yes, it's Vanita Oelschlanger again, with Kristin Blackwood at the richly colorful paint brush and today's topic is Carrot is a cat. I'll bet you'll never guess what color she is.... She has a great life, inexplicably chasing mice, but also tending to one who has the flu. She loves her home and family, and the opportunities for a fish dinner at Finney's(!). I had a cat of the same hue, named Ginger. Still no idea what color she was?

One day Carrot sees a luxury yacht (probably pronounced Mangrove-Throat-Wobbler - and if you get that reference, you probably like flying circuses....) cruise by, and espies a gorgeous white fluffy cat on the deck playing with a toy mouse. The cat's name is Buffy. No word of whether she fights vampire cats.

This sight is a bit too much for Carrot, who now finds her days occupied not with having fun and tasty snacks, but with thoughts of what her own life would be like if she had the opportunities and life-style enjoyed by Buffy. She daydreams her time away in idle imaginings.

Being a practical cat - a practi-cat, no doubt - Carrot soon realizes the futility of her day-dreaming. She begins to understand that not all is not well in Buffy-world. Buffy doesn't have a host of family legs to rub against. She doesn't have real organic USDA grade A-1 mice to chase, nor does she have yummy snacks from Finney's. She leads a rather sad and isolated life, surrounded by fish but none to eat.

Carrot rather quickly and quite fully realizes what she would lose, and she re-values her own life, deciding that the catnip isn't always greener on the other side of the mouse. This is a great story for kids who might sometimes wish they had been born someone else, or who might look enviously at the life others lead. We cannot always control what happens to us, but we can control how we feel about it and how much we take or lose out of each day that we have. Worthy of a look for cat lovers and their children!


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Luna's Red Hat by Emmi Smid


Title: Luna's Red Hat
Author: Emmi Smid
Publisher: Jessica Kingsley
Rating: WORTHY!


DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review. The chance to read a new book is often enough reward aplenty!

The author is a bereavement specialist from the Netherlands. She has written this book to help parents talk to children about suicide, to help children understand what happened and that it's no one's fault, especially not theirs, and that life will have to go on without the loved one because death is final.

It's the beginning of spring, and Luna is in the park with her dad and baby brother for a picnic, but she's not feeling very sunny. There's one person missing: her mom. Mom killed herself (perhaps from post-partum depression) and Luna, who is wearing her mother's hat, is very angry that her own mom should voluntarily choose to leave her like that.

Dad honestly tries to understand exactly what's on Luna's mind. He takes her seriously and listens to what she has to say. He doesn't talk down to her or try to belittle what she says or is feeling. He doesn't get too deep or into too much detail. He lets Luna ventilate all she wants, and he comments where he thinks she needs to hear his voice.

Carefully choosing his words, he explains what happened and that sometimes, in a situation like this, there's nothing anyone can do no matter how much they feel they should have done something or known something.

There's a section in back where Dr Fiddelaers-jaspers discusses bereavement where it affects young children and offers sensible and useful advice about what to do. I sincerely hope no one reading this will ever need a book like this, but if you do, or if someone you know might benefit from it, it's there, and I think it's does a great job. The illustrations are suitably child-like and colorful, and the text is brief and simple - easy to understand, easy to read, easy to share with a child.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Other Sister by ST Underdahl





Title: The Other Sister
Author: ST Underdahl
Publisher: Flux
Rating: WORTHY!

Susan Thompson Underdahl is a psychologist who has experienced the very story she relates in this novel, and relate she does. I don't know how much of it is fiction and how much is actual memory, but I do know this was a novel I read through from cover to cover in one sitting, and I enjoyed it immensely. Afterwards I found myself wondering how the Josey's real life counterpart felt when she learned that this novel was coming out.

The novel is about Audrey, an adoptee, contacting her birth mother and discovering she has a birth father married to that same mother and she has two brothers and a sister in that same family. I can;t imagine what kind of a shock or revelation that would be to a young woman. Underdahl was the 'Audrey' of this novel, but she told it from the 'Josey' perspective which is interesting, and is perhaps what I might have done if I'd been in her position. I think she was able to empathize with Josey so well because in some regards, Audrey and Josey were the same person while at the same time being quite different, having gone through very different experiences and having an outlook on life which differed in many ways.

Josette, sixteen, is the middle child, with an older brother Jake and a younger brother Julian (yeah, I know). She's a straight-A student who wants to become a psychologist. She has two best friends, Sarah and Britt, and comes home one day after studying with them to discover that her mother has some news about which she's very nervous about sharing with her daughter. Josey has never seen her mother quite like this. Why her father isn't present for this discussion I don't know. I found that slightly disturbing, but his absence at that particular time is actually a part of the story in a way; it's a harbinger of the relationship between Josey and her parents which bubbles up later in the novel.

Josey (I don't like that name, neither in its full version nor the diminutive) is hit rather harder than her brothers by this news. Why her mother chose to tell her before she told either of the sons, and especially given that one of the sons is older, is also dealt with later in the novel. I think in this case it was a wise decision, but later, the parental decisions were not so wise in these events!

Since the real story took place twenty years before, Underdahl chooses to address the lack of Internet and email by giving Audrey an aversion to tel phone contact and having the initial correspondence take place via snail mail, although the very first contact, not with Audrey but with a social worker, comes by phone. The purpose of the call to ask Anne (Josey's mother) if she's averse to her adopted daughter contacting her. Anne gives the go-ahead and soon receives an intelligently-written letter from Audrey tentatively opening the lines of communication. There's a photograph enclosed, of Audrey and her fiance. Audrey looks very much like Josey.

This is the first of a series of crises through which Josey goes. The next is when she learns that Audrey is a psychologist. Josey now feels that she has lost her position as only daughter, and as senior daughter, as well as being 'replaced' by someone who looks like her, has usurped her career goal, and is occupying almost all of her mother's attention. It's heartening to see how Josey, so young and so struggling, steps up to the situation. I doubt that I would have handled it so well at her age.

Yet despite her rather heroic struggle, she is struggling. Her parents arrange for a meeting in Cancun - neutral ground - so that they can all meet and get to know one another. Because Anne works for an airline, she's able to get discount fares and they occupy a small villa, and spend three all-too-short days together, but Josey notices that Audrey is crying at one point, and when they part at the end of the vacation, she says something mean to her new sister and, too late, regrets it.

In the end it's all resolved and the outcome works for everyone, but there is a journey before Josey can get there, and it's a journey with some surprising revelations about her calm and confident older sister. But this is something you will have to find out for yourself. Despite the misgivings I had after reading Susan Underdahl's bio (she knew a ghost for eight years? She can sometimes breathe underwater?) which made me doubt her veracity in other regards, this novel is all I'm reviewing here, not the author, and the novel is well-done, sensitively written, inventive, entertaining, and very enjoyable. I rate it worthy!