I expected lots of melodrama from this story about a woman who loses her entire family overnight in a house fire — the night before a wedding, no less. Instead, this is a really rich story about two families and how one generation influences the next. It’s also a book about friendship, and even about hope.
The book begins with June Reid driving away from her small Connecticut resort town. She lost her boyfriend, her daughter, her daughter’s fiancé, and her ex-husband when their house went up in flames. Lydia is the mother of Luke, June’s much-younger boyfriend. Lydia and June had become close friends, and now they’ve both lost their children. Only June’s taken off and Lydia is stuck in this small town, where people look down on her.
Clegg explores the difficult decisions these two parents made, and how those decisions impacted their children. Neither woman feels like a stereotype and neither is perfect. Both June and Lydia are trying to rebuild troubled relationships with their children when this tragedy occurs. I found their characters really relatable, although at the same time I could relate to Luke and Lolly’s anger at their parents (I particularly identified with Lolly’s reaction to her parents’ divorce).
There are a lot of different narrators, and some people may have trouble with that. Maybe there are too many narrators, but it does create a really well-drawn story seen from multiple perspectives. While the narrators are telling their own stories, they are really telling the stories of these two women and their children.
Clegg manages to weave in a lot about what it means to be from somewhere, and what it means to be home. June is an outsider. She’s well-traveled and sophisticated; she’s the “summer crowd” in this town but she moves there to begin her life over. That doesn’t go so well. Lydia is born in this town and can’t seem to leave, even though there’s nothing there for her but judgment. When you have money, you can be so much more mobile.
Clegg gradually reveals all the pieces of this story without it ever feeling unbelievable or overly sentimental. It’s a really thoughtful portrayal of how hard it is to make families work, and it’s beautifully written.
My full review can be found at https://thebookstop.wordpress.com.