Author: Patti Callahan Henry
Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / South Carolina / Teenage Romance / Engagement / Adoption / Southern / Flashbacks)
Publisher/Publication Date: St. Martin's Press (4/9/2013)
Source: NetGalley / SheReads
Did I finish?: I did, but I skipped heavily.
One-sentence summary: A 30something shop owner with a painful secret struggles to understand why she's unable to trust the perfect love that's in front of her.
Reading Challenges: E-book, What's In a Name?
Do I like the cover?: No, but it's not my speed (very contemporary women's fic)
I'm reminded of...: Sarah McCoy, Emily Jeanne Miller, Camille Noe Pagán
First line: March twentieth was full of First Things, and to thirteen-year-old Katie Vaughn it was the day that started all the other days in her life, the beginning of everything that might come after.
Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow if you like contemporary women's fiction
Why did I get this book?: It is the April selection for the SheReads book club.
Review: One of the things book blogging has done has introduced me genres I rarely read, and sometimes that has blown my mind. Sometimes, it affirms a genre isn't my thing, like this read.
It took me some time to get into the story especially as I was initially put off by our heroine. A successful 30-something woman, Kate Vaughn is angsting away her adult life due to her Very Big Secret. She's the kind of heroine who sees an engagement ring and loses it -- and not in the screams-of-joy way. (I was reminded a bit of Siddalee from The Divine Secrets of Ya Ya Sisterhood.)
Flashing back to various chapters in her past, we learn that Kate has been torn between two loves: that of Jack, her childhood sweetheart, and her social work via an outdoors program in Arizona. When Jack finally moves on, Kate makes a move on him, and surprising no one, ends up pregnant. Kate gives up her child, but carries the burden of that, combined with her lingering hurt over her failed relationship. Thirteen years later, she's still stuck, despite her dream boyfriend, concerned family and friends, and vibrant life.
I can't say why some flawed characters resonate with me while others don't, but sadly, in this case, I hated our broken heroine. In fact, I only read this book in small chunks as I was so frustrated with Kate I lost a lot of sympathy for her. I will admit, too, that this book is predicated on two plots I hate: based on the author's family and adults who have sex without being responsible enough to use birth control.
Still, Henry writes warmly and sympathetically about Kate; later, Henry splits the story between Kate and the daughter she adopted out. And Henry doesn't go for the easy out -- I was surprised and pleased that Henry allowed some 'ouch' to linger, rather than making everything shiny and easy at the end. It was a deeply human conclusion.
While I wasn't wild about our heroine, I was moved by the plight -- or blessing -- of a parent being contacted by a child adopted out to a family. Inspired by, no doubt, the author's real life experience, Kate's daughter finds her via Facebook. Confronted with the child who has been such a huge part of her adult life, Kate has to make peace once more with her choices.
For those who like women's fiction that's slightly tear-jerk-y, that's very heteronormative, and kind of has traditional values, I think this might be your book. If you like Sarah McCoy, Emily Jeanne Miller, Camille Noe Pagán, I think you'll enjoy Patti Callahan Henry.
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