The Latecomers by Helen Klein Ross

9780316476867_f37acOriginally published in Library Journal, October 15, 2018.

In her third novel, Ross (What Was MineMaking It) weaves a tale of the wealthy Hollingworth family and a secret that spans five generations. Rich historical details bring time periods to life from early 1900 wartime to the Great Depression and all the way up to September 11, 2001. Bridey, age 16, leaves Ireland with her sweetheart, Thom, hoping to marry in America. Thom perishes of ship fever, leaving her alone and pregnant. She gives the infant up for adoption, working in a factory until she meets Sarah Hollingworth and becomes a maid at the family’s lavish estate in Wellington, CT. Sarah, who lost her mother at age 12 and then took care of her siblings, marries Edmund, but is unable to have children of her own. Readers will come to know the infant as Vincent and follow him until his adult years. Vincent’s granddaughter, Emma, loses her own father when the twin towers collapse, a repeating pattern of tragedy for the Hollingworth family. Family drama unfolds in alternating viewpoints; the characters are linked across time periods, as they navigate poverty, loss, loneliness, and heartbreak. VERDICT: Fans of historical sagas will enjoy this dramatic tale.

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Leave Me by Gayle Forman

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Leave Me will be published September 6, 2016 by Algonquin Books.

Leave Me is Gayle Forman’s debut adult fiction novel. I’ve read all of her YA novels and loved them very much, my favorite being I Was Here. As it turns out, she is just as awesome with adult fiction as she is with YA fiction. I absolutely loved the honesty and real-life aspect of this story. This could easily be my story, and the story of so many other working mothers of young children, who are trying to juggle so much with only so many hours in each day. Thank you, Gayle, for writing such a wonderful story.

Maribeth, 45, a working mother of 4 year old twins, is so busy taking care of her children, husband, and household, that she doesn’t even realize that she’s had a heart attack. After coming home from the hospital with strict orders to rest and recover, she finds herself unable to do either. It seems that her unfortunate health problem has become quite the interruption for her husband and children. So Maribeth packs a bag, leaves a note, and takes off alone in search of space to heal and to be herself. She is in such a state of stress, shock, and terror that she later doesn’t even remember what she wrote in the note she left for her husband, Jason. Another dimension added to the story is that Maribeth initiates a search for her birth mother, and as such, the story includes quite a bit of information and details regarding adoption.

It’s amazing how quickly Maribeth meets four very good friends in the short time that she is away from her former life. Janice, Stephen, Sunny, and Todd. All accept her for who she says she is (with very little details she provides), without question. She becomes reliant on them for various things, and I believe these friendships are what allowed her to take a step back and look at her life from a different perspective. Once she is on her own, she realizes that she is no longer making lists, planning things in advance, or keeping a schedule. She feels liberated – she is truly living and letting go.

But what does this say about her as a wife, and as a mother? Has she failed her family? She feels like her own birth mother, her best friend Elizabeth, and even her husband left her at some point. As the old adage goes, one can only truly accept love from others once he or she truly loves and accepts his or herself. She realizes, once the buzz of her crazy day-to-day life quiets down, that maybe no one ever really stopped believing in her or loving her – maybe she just has to keep believing in and loving herself.

I loved the ending, because it leaves the reader happy for Maribeth in anticipation of what is to come, without revealing all the minute details of the reunion.

This story really hit close to home with me, because am very similar to Maribeth in ways. I’m a full time working mother of two little boys, as well. I am also a planner, list maker, and juggler of many things. One passage that really stuck with me and resonates still is the following:

“A year ago, so much uncertainty would’ve killed her. Her lists, her plans – they were her parachute, the thing to keep her from total free fall. She was in free fall now. And it wasn’t killing her. In fact, she was beginning to wonder if she mightn’t had it backwards. All that fixating on the fall…maybe she should’ve been paying more attention to the free.”

So, I’m going to take a lesson from Maribeth and try to “pay more attention to the free.”

Thanks for reading; and I hope you enjoy this story as much as I did.

Two If By Sea by Jacquelyn Mitchard

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Two If By Sea will be published March 15, 2016 by Simon & Schuster.

This book was intriguing, and while it kept my interest for the most part, at times I almost gave up on finishing it. In the end, I’m glad I finished it, but at times I wasn’t sure where the story line was going as the plot went through some very slow periods. The premise of the story is a bit haunting, and the characters surely make a lasting impression on the reader, with their unique abilities and personalities.

The story begins on Christmas day in Brisbane, Australia, with former police officer turned horse trainer, Frank Mercy, stepping out onto his patio in the middle of the night just before a tsunami crashes the coastline, killing his young wife Natalie, their unborn son, and Natalie’s entire family in one fell swoop. A grieving, and mostly in shock, Frank joins his fellow volunteer rescuers, working nonstop to try to save others, even though he wasn’t there to save his own family. He stumbles upon a van, just about to be swallowed up by water, where he saves a young boy. Something about the boy flips a switch in Frank, and he decides that he will do anything to keep the boy safe.

Instead of taking the boy to the Red Cross station, Frank decides to go against the law (even as a former police officer), asking a friend to forge travel documents so that he can leave with the child, to move back to his family horse farm in Wisconsin. Though nervous that he could be caught, Frank is happy with the young boy and the boy seems happy to be with Frank, living at the family farm with Frank and his mother Hope, and helping Frank with chores. Then, strange events start to happen, and Frank suspects there is a group trying to find the boy, Ian, because of his unique abilities. Frank has already realized by this point that Ian has a telepathic gift which allows him to influence other’s actions and steer them in a positive direction.

To thicken the plot a bit, along comes Claudia, a young psychiatrist and horse jockey who catches Frank’s eye. And, it turns out that Ian does have a bit of family alive back in Australia, which makes things interesting as well. You’ll have to read it to find out what else happens, because I will not give away any spoilers.

Like I mentioned, there were times when I wasn’t sure how the author was going to really finish this story, and I wondered what kind of outcome I would prefer for closure sake. I did enjoy the book, but it wasn’t one of my favorites. I didn’t really like the ending. I think it was too happy of an ending for such a dramatic book. Fans of Oprah’s Book Club picks would surely enjoy this book. The book has family drama, romance, a bit of comedy, and suspense at times, which is appealing for a wide range of fiction readers. Give it a try. Let me know what you think!