Friday, July 31, 2015

Book: Secret Sister by Brenda Novak

I received a digital copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

I had trouble getting into Secret Sister. I kept putting it down and not wanting to pick it back up. Finally, I made myself finish it, because I knew I needed to review it, and I'm glad I did. It got better.

Before I get started with the review, I did notice one big mistake: "she hawked her wedding ring," which should be "hocked," of course. Though the words are both related to selling, they do not mean the same thing.

Okay, so Maisey is in a really down place after losing her child and getting divorced. She's not raw anymore over her marriage, but she's still really broken up about losing her child, and having a lot of trouble coping with the loss her her creativity in the wake of her daughter's death. At the same time, she believes her brother needs her badly, and she chooses to go home, hoping they can each prop the other up and recover with each other's help.

It doesn't turn out that way, as her brother is much deeper than he'd been letting on, and he goes off on a tangent fairly soon after her arrival. Maisey adjusts, carving out a place to live - not in her mother's house - and a job, and goes about the business of recovering her sanity/emotional well-being.

Maisey's mother, Josephine, is a cold fish. Appearances are everything to her, and she uses that to abuse her kids and condescend to nearly everyone. She's really not a nice woman, or so she goes to a lot of trouble to seem.

Over the course of the book, Maisey learns new things about her father, about her brother, and learns that they *might* have had an older sister, once upon a time. The quest for the truth about this possibility is the focus of the remainder of the book. The mystery unravels in bits and pieces, as Maisey finds out many people still talk about her sister, just not to her family. There's never been a question she existed, but there has always been a mystery about what happened to her. The last anyone saw her, she was about ten. She has been assumed drowned off the family's private beach. The big mystery is "who pushed her?" not "what happened?"

Along with the mystery of her family, Maisey meets up with the contractor responsible for repairing hurricane damage to the family's rental bungalows, Rafe. Turns out, she's met him before, and it wasn't an interaction she particularly wants to revisit - it was an embarrassing piece of her teenage past, and she goes forward on the assumption he hasn't changed in twenty years.

Of course, he has. Substantially, and Maisey can't help noticing he's become a man who shoulders responsibility with ease and is genuinely kind to people on the island. He and Maisey become friendlier with the focused assistance of Rafe's daughter, Laney, and Rafe's mother, though the romance is very low key.

Maisey continues to struggle with learning about a sister she doesn't remember, an ex-husband who seems intent on reclaiming lost ground, and the man who keeps offering her friendship - and more - without asking much of her.

I love the way this story was resolved, the way it brought a family to new understandings about themselves and each other, and I'm glad I made myself continue to read it, despite its slow start.