a novel by: Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
Narrator: Sofia Willingham
Imprint: Random House Audio
Genre: Fiction – Coming Of Age
Release Date: May 31, 2016
14 Hours and 30 Minutes
Audiofile provided by publisher for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
From the New York Times bestselling author of Bittersweet comes a novel of suspense and passion about a terrible mistake made sixty years ago that threatens to change a modern family forever.
Twenty-five-year-old Cassie Danvers is holed up in her family’s crumbling mansion in rural St. Jude, Ohio, mourning the loss of the woman who raised her—her grandmother, June. But a knock on the door forces her out of isolation. Cassie has been named the sole heir to legendary matinee idol Jack Montgomery’s vast fortune. How did Jack Montgomery know her name? Could he have crossed paths with her grandmother all those years ago? What other shocking secrets could June’s once-stately mansion hold?
Soon Jack’s famous daughters come knocking, determined to wrestle Cassie away from the inheritance they feel is their due. Together, they all come to discover the true reasons for June’s silence about that long-ago summer, when Hollywood came to town, and June and Jack’s lives were forever altered by murder, blackmail, and betrayal. As this page-turner shifts deftly between the past and present, Cassie and her guests will be forced to reexamine their legacies, their definition of family, and what it truly means to love someone, steadfastly, across the ages.
There are several books in this story: the secret life of a house, a paranormal, a coming of age, coming out, coming to terms story, and a novel about love, depression and finding family, and maybe another about race, gender identity, class and discrimination.
When a story is so multidimensional I like the stories to somehow mesh, and while that does, to some degree happen here, well it is not enough to make the secret life and feelings of, as well as its paranormal ability to create dreams, Two Oaks, all that relevant and more than a distraction.
One of the main characters is named June, and the book is often taking place in June. In audio this is confusing. Are we flipping back to June, the character, now dead from the present? Or, are we in the month of June. Other than that the audio is fine and Sifia Willingham has good facility with the characters’ voices and her engagement in the story was, in itself, engaging.
My main issue is that there are just too many story lines, and an inexplicable malaise around one of the main characters. She is depressed because, after a big fight, her grandmother died and she didn’t know she was sick, and now she is living in the house and it’s falling down and she is broke. yadda yadda yadda. And the house is making her dream and there are ghosts,… Time to put on your big girl panties, or at least stop eating moldy bread that is giving you hallucinations.
It’s as if the writer had too many ideas, and maybe started writing this immediately after reading A SPOOL OF BLUE THREAD by Ann Tyler with its semi-sentient house. “Ooh, I want to write a sentient house into my family saga.”
The story occurs in two periods: 1955 and 2015. But, while 2015 almost feels like 2015 (although it also feels like a 1970s TV show), the 1955 period feels more like the 1920s through the 1930s. As I have not been alive that long, I can only say this feeling arises from other books I have read, or movies I have seen.
The author does well building suspense; there are a lot of secrets in these families. And the prose is elegant. The story does all come around in the end, and while it was an intriguing listen, I don’t think it is really a “coming of age” story; it is not focused enough on one person. There’s also some head hopping in a third person POV that is almost one person’s thoughts, Lindy’s in the past, and Cassie’s in the now, but then becomes another.
There are some great twists and turns in both time periods though, and a couple of real butches.
I wouldn’t go so far to say it is a book to avoid, just that it was a bit of a jumble.