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Blog Tour – Find Me In Havana

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Synopsis

A novel based on the dazzling story of one of Hollywood’s most celebrated Hispanic actresses and her daughter’s search for closure.

Cuba, 1936: When Estelita Rodriguez sings in a hazy Havana nightclub for the very first time, she is nine years old. From then on, that spotlight of adoration–from Havana to New York’s Copacabana and then Hollywood–becomes the one true accomplishment no one can take from her. Not the 1933 Cuban Revolution that drove her family into poverty. Not the revolving door of husbands or the fickle world of film.

Thirty years later, her young adult daughter, Nina, is blindsided by her mother’s mysterious death. Seeking answers, the grieving Nina navigates the troubling, opulent memories of their life together and discovers how much Estelita sacrificed to live the American dream on her own terms.

Based on true events and exclusive interviews with Nina Lopez, Estelita’s daughter, Find Me in Havana weaves two unforgettable voices into one extraordinary story that explores the unbreakable bond between mother and child, and the ever-changing landscape of self-discovery. 


My Review

Find Me In Havana is a historical fiction based on the life of actress Estelita Rodriguez. Despite her career its focus is not on her life in film. We are given insight into the Cuban revolution when Castro came to power. But this book is not really about that either. This book is about a mother and a daughter.

It is written in an epistolary style with chapters alternating between letters from Estelita and her daughter Nina. It is interesting to see their feelings and mindsets. How each of them experiences these different life events. You get to see how their perception differs. For example when Nina is kidnapped by her father she feels as if her mother has sent her away. That she has once again chosen her career or someone else over her. But Estelita feels rejected as well, not sure if Nina chose to leave.

Here you have a woman who performed with the likes of Desi Arnaz, starred in films opposite John Wayne and hung out with Sammy Davis Jr. But Estelita and Nina did not have a glamorous life. Besides the kidnapping, there’s molestation, rape, domestic violence and substance abuse. The two were not close to their extended family. Their support system consisted of Estelita’s mother. Despite her devotion, all Nina wanted was to be alone with her mother. Just the two of them for once. No grandma. No husbands. No admirers. Just her and her mom.

As much as Find Me In Havana is about that mother-daughter bond, it does capture the time period vividly. In some cases with shocking revelation which prompted me to do my own web sleuthing. Whenever I read an historical fiction I want to know where the line between fact and fiction lies. And I want to know how much creative license was used. But in all my searching I couldn’t find too many facts about Estelita’s life. Even on websites dedicated to her, there were scarce details about her personal life outside her four marriages. There was also a lot of mystery surrounding her death. Some sources said it was influenza. Others said that the cause of death was undetermined.

I was happy when I stumbled upon an interview with Estelita’s daughter Nina Lopez where she is talking with author Serena Burdick. She was pleased with the end result of the book. Not only did Burdick present a true picture of her mother and their life together, but she was able to capture the essence of Nina’s feelings and her inner thoughts. She confirms that there is truth in these words. But for some reason Nina seemed sad to me. When I finished the book I was hopeful for her. Part of my combing the internet was to find her. To find what had become of her. Had she found her place in the world? Was she getting the attention she so desperately craved as a child? Does she feel full, sated with all that life has to offer? I guess this is a testament to Burdick’s writing, as I feel as if I know Nina personally and why I am invested in her actual life story.

Find Me In Havana is my second novel by Serena Burdick. The common thread that I see with Burdick is looking at women in history and telling those stories that have been lost or forgotten. Here she is to say that these women lived. That these are there stories. That there truths will not be buried, nor their memories forsaken.


Meet The Author

Where You Can Find Her

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Throwback Thursday 1/7

Happy New Year!

I discovered Throwback Thursday on my friend Carla Loves To Read page.

Throwback Thursday meme is hosted by Renee@It’s Book Talk and is a way to share some of your old favorites as well as sharing books that you’re FINALLY getting around to reading that were published over a year ago. You know, the ones waiting patiently on your TBR list while you continue to pile more titles on top of them! These older books are usually much easier than new releases to get a hold of at libraries and elsewhere. If you have your own Throwback Thursday recommendation feel free to jump on board and connect back to Renee’s blog.

Synopsis

Running. That’s all that Ghost (real name Castle Cranshaw) has ever known. But never for a track team. Nope, his game has always been ball. But when Ghost impulsively challenges an elite sprinter to a race — and wins — the Olympic medalist track coach sees he has something: crazy natural talent. Thing is, Ghost has something else: a lot of anger, and a past that he is trying to outrun. Can Ghost harness his raw talent for speed and meld with the team, or will his past finally catch up to him?

My Thoughts

This book was read as part of my 2020 Pop Sugar Challenge. It qualified for the prompt of “A book with the same name as a movie that it’s not related to.” It was also one of the books I acquired during BookCon 2019 so I also had the pleasure of meeting Jason Reynolds which made me more excited to read this book. I have to say that I enjoyed it enough that I went on to listen to the rest of the series narrated by Guy Lockard and Heather Alicia Simms.

Each of the books in the Track series is named after one of the track members and is told from their perspective. Reynolds uses their life experiences to show how they have overcome. We get to see what the sport means to them and how people like Coach and have positively impacted their lives and helped these kids grow and flourish. The whole concept of “community” is exemplified here and it’s wonderful to see the kids lean on each other as members of their village.

I would whole heartedly recommend this series to middle grade children but found myself entertained as an adult. Other books by Jason Reynolds that are worth reading are Long Way Down*, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You and For Every One.

*1/4/21 – Long Way Down is currently free through Kindle Unlimited.


Throwback Pic

Young boy attending Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech, 28th Aug 1963. I have not been able to find the name of the photographer to credit.

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WWW Wednesday 1/6

It’s been some time since I have done a WWW post. But I realized that not only was it fun to see what you all were reading, but it also gave me a moment to pause and consider what I had read over the week. So WWW Wednesday will be one of the memes I continue throughout 2021.

So what is WWW Wednesday?

This meme was created by Miz B formerly of shouldbereading and currently hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

The Three Ws are:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

What I’ve Read

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was a poignant and emotional memoir. I recommend listening to the audio which George Johnson narrates himself.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This epic retelling of the Trojan War is told from the women’s points of view. Haynes begs the question what makes someone a hero during war. How many lives you vanquish? Or how many lives you touch and nurture?


What I’m Reading

This book will be part of an ongoing process and will be included in my 52 Weeks of Women of Color challenge for 2021. As the second volume came out, together these two (at 1841 pages) will count towards my 2021 Pop Sugar Challenge for “The longest book on your TBR.” So far I have been enjoying reading a few pages each morning while I sip on my coffee. There is something about starting your day off with a good book that warms my soul. I also have been journaling my thoughts and writing up additional info that I come across while researching these women.


So far I like the character’s voice and am expecting this to be a 5 star book. Somehow though I got sidetracked watching the election yesterday (and today) so I might not finish this one until tomorrow. Not a good way to start off the year — reviewing days after publication but all I can do now is get it in as soon as possible.


What’s Next?

I have three blog tours coming over the next week:

1/8 – Find Me in Havana

I have already and reviewed this title. The link will be open at midnight Pacific time January 8th. Link to Blog Tour


1/10 – Their Frozen Graves

  • Mystery/ Thriller
  • Kindle Edition, 381 pages
  • Expected publication: January 7th 2021 by Bookouture
  • 52 Weeks of Women of Color
  • NetGalley

1/14 – The Woman Inside

  • Mystery/ Thriller
  • ebook, 331 pages
  • Expected publication: January 13th 2021 by Bookouture
  • Bookopoly Challenge
  • NetGalley
Featured

Teaser Tuesdays – 1/5

Welcome to Teaser Tuesday, the weekly Meme hosted by The Purple Booker. It’s super easy and anyone can join in the fun!

1: Grab your current read
2: Open to a random page
3: Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

One of the Good Ones

You’re the kind of girl you fight wars for. You’re the kind of girl you fight wars with.

Rating: 4 out of 5.
  • Young Adult/ Realistic Fiction/ Mystery
  • Own Voices
  • Hardcover, 384 pages
  • Release Date: January 5th 2021 by Inkyard Press

The premise behind the book is about how we judge people and their worth. Are they good students? Star athletes? Involved in community service? Are they beautiful? Talented? Are they considered “special” enough for their lives to matter and for us to fight for them when they encounter injustice? In their sophomore novel, the Moulite sisters show how dangerous the well intentioned term “one of the good ones” can be.

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Review: River Bodies by Karen Katchur

A body washes up in a remote area of Pennsylvania. The man has been murdered. Shot. That’s alarming but what is most chilling is the discovery of the rest of his body. Dressed as it were a deer kill. This is the second body to be found along the river. The first was many years ago when Becca was a teenage girl.

When Becca returns home it rekindles both memories and feelings. Can she reconcile with her father? Will the secrets of the past hinder her romance with her old flame? More importantly and of more pressing concern, will her memories and her father’s secrets put her very life in danger?

One of my resolutions for 2021 is to read more of my own books and reevaluating my book subscriptions. I acquired this title from Kindle Unlimited and it has been sitting on my phone for over a year. This was the first book that I completed this year and it was a good ride. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Lauren Ezzo.

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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#5 On My TBR – 2021 Releases

Happy Happy New Year! How many of you are as excited to greet this new year as I am?

With a new year comes new resolutions, new plans and this week’s focus — new releases!

5 On My TBR is a weekly meme that gets you digging into your massive TBRs to find five special books. Created by E@LocalBeeHuntersNook this meme centers on a new prompt each Monday. For those of you interested in participating in #5 On My TBR you can find additional info and future prompts here.

So here are 5 of my most anticipated releases of 2021.

#1 – Chlorine Sky

I have read Mahogany’s Browne’s Black Girl Magic and the anthology The BreakBeat Poets and was moved. So when I saw that she had a novel-in-verse coming out this year I got goosebumps.

She looks me hard in my eyes
& my knees lock into tree trunks
My eyes don’t dance like my heartbeat racing
They stare straight back hot daggers.
I remember things will never be the same.
I remember things.

With gritty and heartbreaking honesty, Mahogany L. Browne delivers a novel-in-verse about broken promises, fast rumors, and when growing up means growing apart from your best friend.


#2 – Concrete Rose

International phenomenon Angie Thomas revisits Garden Heights seventeen years before the events of The Hate U Give in this searing and poignant exploration of Black boyhood and manhood.


#3 – Blood Grove

Walter Mosley is my favorite author and this is his 15th installment in the Easy Rawlins series.


#4 – 400 Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019

An epoch-defining history of African America, the first to appear in a generation, Four Hundred Souls is a chronological account of four hundred years of Black America as told by ninety of America’s leading Black writers.


#5 – Harlem Shuffle

From two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead, a gloriously entertaining novel of heists, shakedowns, and rip-offs set in Harlem in the 1960s.

Blog Tour: Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder

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Synopsis

The letter was short. A name, a time, a place.

Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder plunges readers into the heart of London, to the secret tunnels that exist far beneath the city streets. There, a mysterious group of detectives recruited for Miss Brickett’s Investigations & Inquiries use their cunning and gadgets to solve crimes that have stumped Scotland Yard.

Late one night in April 1958, a filing assistant at Miss Brickett’s receives a letter of warning, detailing a name, a time, and a place. She goes to investigate but finds the room empty. At the stroke of midnight, she is murdered by a killer she can’t see―her death the only sign she wasn’t alone. It becomes chillingly clear that the person responsible must also work for Miss Brickett’s, making everyone a suspect.

Marion Lane, a first-year Inquirer-in-training, finds herself drawn ever deeper into the investigation. When her friend and colleague is framed for the crime, to clear his name she must sort through the hidden alliances at Miss Brickett’s and secrets dating back to WWII. Masterful, clever and deliciously suspenseful, Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder is a fresh take on the Agatha Christie-style locked-room murder mystery, with an exciting new heroine detective.


Review

“A snitch, stabbed with a snitch.”

Michelle White knew just about everybody’s secrets. And she knew how to use them to her advantage. So it is no surprise when she turns up dead killed by the instrument of her snooping. But who killed her? Just about everybody had equal motive. In a room full of spies there are many secrets worth killing for.

Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder reminded me a lot of Harry Potter. With its underground labyrinth hidden behind the facade of an innocuous bookstore and all of the gadgetry it was a fun book to read.

From Times of Malta article “History at end of the tunnel – detailed map of Valletta tunnels being compiled”

The maze of tunnels was inspired by the cities of London and Valleta, Malta which both used underground passageways for defense during the second World War. What T. A. Willberg does to bring them alive is make them ever-changing with doors sealing off passageways and tunnels shifting direction.

Marion Lane is a new Inquirer and is trying to establish herself amongst this elite and almost mythical organization. As a woman in 1950s London, it is hard to break the mold and get out from under her grandmother’s thumb to live the life she wants for herself. Willberg does a great job of incorporating this into a story and I wonder what plans she has for Marion Lane.


Meet the Author

T.A. Willberg was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and holds a chiropractic masters degree from Durban University of Technology. MARION LANE AND THE MIDNIGHT MURDER is her debut novel and launch of her detective series. She currently lives in Malta with her partner.

Where You Can Find Her

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Blog Tour: Wrong Alibi

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Synopsis

Perfect for fans of Lisa Jewell, New York Times bestselling author Christina Dodd delivers an all-new thriller, featuring a bold and brash female protagonist.

WRONG JOB
Eighteen-year-old Evelyn Jones lands a job in small-town Alaska, working for a man in his isolated mountain home. But her bright hopes for the future are shattered when Donald White disappears, leaving her to face charges of theft, embezzlement—and a brutal double murder. Her protestations of innocence count for nothing. Convicted, she faces life in prison…until fate sends her on the run.

WRONG NAME
Evie’s escape leaves her scarred and in hiding, isolated from her family, working under an alias at a wilderness camp. Bent on justice, intent on recovering her life, she searches for the killer who slaughters without remorse.

WRONG ALIBI
At last, the day comes. Donald White has returned. Evie emerges from hiding; the fugitive becomes the hunter. But in her mind, she hears the whisper of other forces at work. Now Evelyn must untangle the threads of evidence before she’s once again found with blood on her hands: the blood of her own fam


My Review

Wrong Alibi is my first Christina Dodd novel and found myself on the edge of my seat. Once I picked up the book I couldn’t put it down.

The book starts out with our main character in a juvenile detention center. She is eager to get a fresh start in life and make amends for the mistakes in her past. She takes a job in the wilds of Alaska with a charming man who seems to say all the right things. Even though Evie gets the sense that something is amiss, she ignores her better senses and finds herself framed for a double murder.

Wrong Alibi is about Evie/Petie’s hunt for retribution. She bides her time, hones her craft and allies herself with one of the world’s most feared women. I have to say that the women in this novel – the good, the bad and the ugly – were all strong characters. To me, Wrong Alibi reads like a superhero origin story. Our protagonist is wronged horribly. Forever scarred, her life is turned upside down, irreparable. Somehow, she finds the strength within and persists. Even though there were moments where I had to suspend my disbelief, I really enjoyed this novel. The descriptive scene setting. The Alaskan backdrop. Quirky characters like Hawley and Jeen Lee. Intriguing backstories. The pacing of the novel. I definitely will be keeping up with this series.


Meet The Author

New York Times bestselling author Christina Dodd writes “edge-of-the-seat suspense” (Iris Johansen) with “brilliantly etched characters, polished writing, and unexpected flashes of sharp humor that are pure Dodd” (ALA Booklist). Her fifty-eight books have been called “scary, sexy, and smartly written” by Booklist and, much to her mother’s delight, Dodd was once a clue in the Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle. Enter Christina’s worlds and join her mailing list at www.christinadodd.com.

Where You Can Find Her

Teaser Tuesday

Welcome to Teaser Tuesday, the weekly Meme hosted by The Purple Booker. It’s super easy and anyone can join in the fun!

1: Grab your current read
2: Open to a random page
3: Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

The book I am highlighting this week is Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa the first book in The Nameless Republic series.

  • Speculative Fiction/ Epic Fantasy
  • Paperback, 480 pages
  • Available May 11, 2021 by Orbit

The Teaser

As he turned to leave, something leapt from beneath the ground and out of the dark. He moved just in time to evade its grasp, but not before he caught a flash of something that felt like it didn’t fit here, or in any known manner of existence at all.

pg. 93

Synopsis

A young scholar’s ambition threatens to reshape an empire determined to retain its might in this epic tale of violent conquest, buried histories, and forbidden magic.

In the thriving city of Bassa, Danso is a clever but disillusioned scholar who longs for a life beyond the rigid family and political obligations expected of the city’s elite. A way out presents itself when Lilong, a skin-changing warrior, shows up wounded in his barn. She comes from the Nameless Islands–which, according to Bassa lore, don’t exist–and neither should the mythical magic of ibor she wields. Now swept into a conspiracy far beyond his understanding, Danso will have to set out on a journey that reveals histories violently suppressed and magic only found in lore.


If this whets your appetite, you can preorder your copy here.

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#5 On My TBR – Planned to Read in 2020

This is the last #5OnMyTBR post of the year. While I’ve been enjoying my family (maybe a little too much – I’m going to go through separation anxiety when everyone has to go back to school –Wait, wait this is still 2020, everyone will be at home . . . maybe I’ve found the silver lining . . .) I wanted to finish off this last week strong on my blog.

5 On My TBR is a weekly meme that gets you digging into your massive TBRs to find five special books. Created by E@LocalBeeHuntersNook this meme centers on a new prompt each Monday. This week’s theme is Animals. For those of you interested in participating in #5 On My TBR you can find additional info and future prompts here.

This week’s topic is very fitting for wrapping up these final days of 2020 — What I planned to read in 2020 but didn’t get around to over the course of this crazy year. All of these are sitting on my mantel place starring at me right now. So no excuses for 2021.

The kindle editions for both Red at the Bone and The Mirror and the Light are on sale today.

#1 – Red At The Bone

From Goodreads: Moving forward and backward in time, Jacqueline Woodson’s taut and powerful new novel uncovers the role that history and community have played in the experiences, decisions, and relationships of these families, and in the life of the new child.

As the book opens in 2001, it is the evening of sixteen-year-old Melody’s coming of age ceremony in her grandparents’ Brooklyn brownstone. Watched lovingly by her relatives and friends, making her entrance to the music of Prince, she wears a special custom-made dress. But the event is not without poignancy. Sixteen years earlier, that very dress was measured and sewn for a different wearer: Melody’s mother, for her own ceremony– a celebration that ultimately never took place.

Unfurling the history of Melody’s parents and grandparents to show how they all arrived at this moment, Woodson considers not just their ambitions and successes but also the costs, the tolls they’ve paid for striving to overcome expectations and escape the pull of history. As it explores sexual desire and identity, ambition, gentrification, education, class and status, and the life-altering facts of parenthood, Red at the Bone most strikingly looks at the ways in which young people must so often make long-lasting decisions about their lives–even before they have begun to figure out who they are and what they want to be.


#2 – The Mirror and the Light

From Goodreads: ‘If you cannot speak truth at a beheading, when can you speak it?’

England, May 1536. Anne Boleyn is dead, decapitated in the space of a heartbeat by a hired French executioner. As her remains are bundled into oblivion, Thomas Cromwell breakfasts with the victors. The blacksmith’s son from Putney emerges from the spring’s bloodbath to continue his climb to power and wealth, while his formidable master, Henry VIII, settles to short-lived happiness with his third queen, before Jane dies giving birth to the male heir he most craves.

Cromwell is a man with only his wits to rely on; he has no great family to back him, no private army. Despite rebellion at home, traitors plotting abroad and the threat of invasion testing Henry’s regime to breaking point, Cromwell’s robust imagination sees a new country in the mirror of the future. But can a nation, or a person, shed the past like a skin? Do the dead continually unbury themselves? What will you do, the Spanish ambassador asks Cromwell, when the king turns on you, as sooner or later he turns on everyone close to him?

With The Mirror and the Light, Hilary Mantel brings to a triumphant close the trilogy she began with Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. She traces the final years of Thomas Cromwell, the boy from nowhere who climbs to the heights of power, offering a defining portrait of predator and prey, of a ferocious contest between present and past, between royal will and a common man’s vision: of a modern nation making itself through conflict, passion and courage.


#3 – Dominicana

From Goodreads: Fifteen-year-old Ana Cancion never dreamed of moving to America, the way the girls she grew up with in the Dominican countryside did. But when Juan Ruiz proposes and promises to take her to New York City, she has to say yes. It doesn’t matter that he is twice her age, that there is no love between them. Their marriage is an opportunity for her entire close-knit family to eventually immigrate. So on New Year’s Day, 1965, Ana leaves behind everything she knows and becomes Ana Ruiz, a wife confined to a cold six-floor walk-up in Washington Heights. Lonely and miserable, Ana hatches a reckless plan to escape. But at the bus terminal, she is stopped by Cesar, Juan’s free-spirited younger brother, who convinces her to stay.

As the Dominican Republic slides into political turmoil, Juan returns to protect his family’s assets, leaving Cesar to take care of Ana. Suddenly, Ana is free to take English lessons at a local church, lie on the beach at Coney Island, see a movie at Radio City Music Hall, go dancing with Cesar, and imagine the possibility of a different kind of life in America. When Juan returns, Ana must decide once again between her heart and her duty to her family. 


#4 – The Burning God

From Goodreads: After saving her nation of Nikan from foreign invaders and battling the evil Empress Su Daji in a brutal civil war, Fang Runin was betrayed by allies and left for dead. 

Despite her losses, Rin hasn’t given up on those for whom she has sacrificed so much—the people of the southern provinces and especially Tikany, the village that is her home. Returning to her roots, Rin meets difficult challenges—and unexpected opportunities. While her new allies in the Southern Coalition leadership are sly and untrustworthy, Rin quickly realizes that the real power in Nikan lies with the millions of common people who thirst for vengeance and revere her as a goddess of salvation. 

Backed by the masses and her Southern Army, Rin will use every weapon to defeat the Dragon Republic, the colonizing Hesperians, and all who threaten the shamanic arts and their practitioners. As her power and influence grows, though, will she be strong enough to resist the Phoenix’s intoxicating voice urging her to burn the world and everything in it? 

The exciting end to The Poppy War trilogy, R. F. Kuang’s acclaimed, award-winning epic fantasy that combines the history of twentieth-century China with a gripping world of gods and monsters, to devastating, enthralling effect.


#5 – The Most Fun We Ever Had

From Goodreads: A multigenerational novel in which the four adult daughters of a Chicago couple–still madly in love after forty years–recklessly ignite old rivalries until a long-buried secret threatens to shatter the lives they’ve built.

When Marilyn Connolly and David Sorenson fall in love in the 1970s, they are blithely ignorant of all that’s to come. By 2016, their four radically different daughters are each in a state of unrest: Wendy, widowed young, soothes herself with booze and younger men; Violet, a litigator-turned-stay-at-home-mom, battles anxiety and self-doubt when the darkest part of her past resurfaces; Liza, a neurotic and newly tenured professor, finds herself pregnant with a baby she’s not sure she wants by a man she’s not sure she loves; and Grace, the dawdling youngest daughter, begins living a lie that no one in her family even suspects. Above it all, the daughters share the lingering fear that they will never find a love quite like their parents’.

As the novel moves through the tumultuous year following the arrival of Jonah Bendt–given up by one of the daughters in a closed adoption fifteen years before–we are shown the rich and varied tapestry of the Sorensons’ past: years marred by adolescence, infidelity, and resentment, but also the transcendent moments of joy that make everything else worthwhile.