Book Review: The Photograph by Debbie Rix

A special shout-out to Bookouture and NetGalley for providing me with this copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

About the Book:

Italy, 1958: Rachael is a young widow with a small child. After a lifetime of running for survival, of not knowing who to trust and where to call home, she finds herself in a place of safety. On a sun-drenched Italian island for one carefree summer the troubles of her past fade away and she falls in love. But will Rachael’s new-found happiness bring her further heartache?

England, 2017: Sophie has a handsome husband, a gorgeous house in the English countryside and a successful career as an anthropologist. But the one thing she longs for is a baby of her own. As she struggles to conceive, cracks begin to appear in her marriage. So Sophie throws herself into her work and tries to seek comfort in childhood memories of her beloved grandmother Rachael.

One afternoon, Sophie finds a forgotten letter and an exquisite silk bracelet hidden in Rachael’s old writing desk. Intrigued, she begins to unravel the extraordinary story of her grandmother’s past – and a secret that has the power to change everything…

The Photograph is an utterly beautiful and compelling story of love, loss and a family secret spanning generations.

My Thoughts:

The Photograph is the spell-binding journey of two women, generations apart, and their stories of love, loss and life. The story alternates between Sophie’s life and experiences in the current day, and those of Rachael, almost 60 years ago.

Sophie is dealing with the struggle to conceive, yearning so much for a child that she does not pay much attention to how the people around her are dealing with things. She is a wonderful person at heart, but fails to see how her obsession affects her husband. At the brink of losing her marriage entirely, the husband and wife duo are confronted with a lot of decisions and forced to deal with their emotions. The best part of Sophie’s story is her family, who is her support system, but who also act as voices of reason when required.

More than 60 years ago, Rachael, Sophie’s grandmother loses her own mother, her husband and is forced to flee her home with her father so as not to get caught. In the midst of all this, she finds herself pregnant. As the father-daughter duo’s journey continues west, they end up in England where her father takes up teaching anthropology at the university.

Rachael fills her time and also builds bonds with the owner of the house they are staying at. As time passes, they move to Italy for almost a year so that her father can lead a dig and document the findings. What follows is a life of sun, some laughter and a passionate love that Rachael develops for a local of the island. However, the main part of her story comes from not being able to pursue this relationship and moving back home.

Rachael’s life is filled with a lot of loss and tragedy, but through all this emerges a strong willed woman who raises two children by herself and lives to see her grandchildren grow up. A quiet but dependable presence in their lives, no-one knows that she harbors a strong secret about her life and her son’s.

Sophie, in a bid to connect with her grandmother, while moving her writing desk from the attic to the living room, discovers a false back. This leads to the discovery of a photograph, the very photograph that the title refers to! What follows is a family holiday to Italy where Sophie sets out to discover the truth behind the photograph. This leads Sophie to uncover a deeply hidden truth that would change her mother and uncle’s lives forever.

The story is gripping and will keep the reader hooked until the very end. Set against some amazing backdrops, the authors ensures to describe each place with great detail, it feels as though you are also there. The emotions are many and the reader will experience them all along with the characters. The author brings out the repercussions of keeping secrets but at the same time she shows us the reasoning behind it and how it might have been necessary. Times change, the world changes and so does people’s perception of things. A compelling story, The Photograph is a must read!

Book Review: Before I Let You Go by Kelly Rimmer

About the Book:

Before I Let You Go

Your sister needs you. But her child needs you more…

As children, Lexie and Annie were incredibly close. Bonded by the death of their beloved father and their mother’s swift remarriage, they weathered the storms of life together. When Lexie leaves home to follow her dream, Annie is forced to turn to her leather-bound journal as the only place she can confide her deepest secrets and fears…

As adults, sisters Lexie and Annie could not be more different. Lexie is a doctor, successful in her practice and happily engaged. Annie is addicted to heroin – a thief, a liar, and unable to remain clean despite the fact that she is pregnant. When Annie’s newborn baby is in danger of being placed in foster care, Annie picks up the phone to beg her sister for help. Will Lexie agree to help and take in her young niece? And how will Annie survive, losing the only thing in her life worth living for?

My Thoughts:

 Before I Let You Go is a story that brings out the bond between family and sisters. There is a strong message of togetherness and trust, the effects of secrets and the power of love. The story mainly follows Lexie and Annie, giving us a glimpse into each of their minds and lives, sisters, who are so different in adulthood and who have drifted apart. Brought together by the death of their father, the girls forge a stronger bond with each other, but as time passes, they drift apart. The author weaves a strong plot of lies, secrets and things left untold which form the basis of the sisters’ relationship.

The story is well-written except for a few times when some points are repeated, driving in the difference in life styles of the sisters. When Annie seeks Lexie out for help and support, she is pregnant and still unable to avoid her drug addiction. Lexie has never been understand how or why her sister changed and when the addiction took over. In spite of this, she rushes to help her sister and agrees to take care of the baby in the time that it takes for her sister to attend rehab again. What follows is a confusing journey filled with strong emotions of anger, love, and togetherness.

As the story unfolds, the reader, along with Lexie, starts to learn a lot about the girls’ past, some of which Lexie had blocked out of her mind and some of it being the truth about her sister’s life that she never knew of. A lot of things bring people closer, but sharing secrets that were buried deep inside and telling the truth to someone you love, helps both of you to grow. That is exactly what happens with Lexie and Annie, during the process of the court-ordered rehab. It is also wonderful to read about Lexie’s fiance who as a supporting character adds more value to this story. However, the build up to the end leads to some unexpected twists that will both surprise and shock the reader, while also being realistic enough that they can understand the situations.

Overall an emotional page-turner, I particularly enjoyed how the author carried forward the plot and the depth of the characters and their emotions. The story may or may not end the way the reader may expect, but there is a lot to take away from this book which makes it worth the read!

Book Review: The Good Mother by Sinéad Moriarty

About the Book:

The Good Mother

Kate has been through the fire with her three children …

Having been left devastated and homeless after her husband’s affair and the break-up of their family, somehow she has pulled through. Though times are still tough, she’s beginning to see the start of a new life.

But when twelve-year-old Jesssica is diagnosed with cancer, Kate’s resilience is put to the ultimate test. She has an eighteen-year-old son consumed with hatred of his father, a seven-year-old who is bewildered and acting up and an ex-husband who won’t face up to his responsibilities. And in the middle of it a beloved child who is trying to be brave but is getting sicker by the day.

Kate knows she must put to one side her own fear and heartbreak and do right by her children, particularly Jessica. But maybe doing the right thing means doing the unthinkable?

My Thoughts:

Sinéad Moriarty brings us a thought provoking and heart wrenching story of love, loss and family. Kate, mother of three, is forced to deal with the break-up of her marriage. Her husband had an affair and moved out, deciding to marry the other woman. The first part of the story shows us how Kate and the children cope with this, the impact this has on the children, and how they all pull together to support one another.

The bonds between the siblings is very strong, and even though they act out in different ways, they come together to support their mother through this time. Jessica, the middle child of the three and the only girl brings a childish charm and a level of maturity that is common among children who are forced to grow up too soon. However, in her, this just makes her more likeable, and everyone’s rock. Her older brother has a more difficult time dealing with the family break-up, as he looked up to his father more than anyone else. His support system are his sister and his girlfriend, who becomes a very integral part of the family and the story. The youngest, hardly knows his father, and is confused most of the time, acting out in any way that only children can.

The beauty of the plot is that the author portrays her characters in shades of grey. There is no right or wrong in this, things just happen, and after a point, you accept that and try to move on. Forgive, learn and move on, but it is not necessary to forget. The story moves at a steady place initially, painting a picture of Kate’s life, her coping mechanisms, and the support she gets from her father. The plot thickens when Jessica, who is absolutely healthy, suddenly takes a turn for the worse, and is later diagnosed with cancer.

In reality, unless you have had to deal with such a situation by yourself, it is not easy to relate to the shock, pain and horror of someone having cancer. The author has brought out the feelings and emotions very well, making sure that the reader is able to understand them. We are taken on an emotional roller-coaster afterwards, as we follow Kate and her family as they deal with the cancer. The way it affects everyone and how Jessica deals with it form the crux of the later half of the story. There is a lot to learn from Jessica, who though a child, has an “old soul” and wisdom that goes beyond her years.

The final question that this book prompts is this: Would you love someone enough to let them go? and, if you do, can you live with the truth? These questions are food for thought and this well-written story is a gripping read to the end.

Book Review: The Wake Up by Catherine Ryan Hyde

About the Book:

The Wake Up

From New York Times bestselling author Catherine Ryan Hyde comes a hauntingly emotional novel of how one man’s life changes forever when he rediscovers his ability to feel the pain of others.

Something has been asleep in forty-year-old cattle rancher Aiden Delacorte for a long time. It all comes back in a rush during a hunting trip, when he’s suddenly attuned to the animals around him, feeling their pain and fear as if it were his own. But the newfound sensitivity of Aiden’s “wake up” has its price. He can no longer sleepwalk through life, holding everyone at arm’s length. As he struggles to cope with a trait he’s buried since childhood, Aiden falls in love with Gwen, a single mother whose young son bears a burden of his own.

Sullen and broken from his experiences with an abusive father, Milo has turned to acting out in violent and rebellious ways. Aiden can feel the boy’s pain, as well as that of his victims. Now he and Milo must sift through their pasts to find empathy with the innocent as well as the guilty, to come to terms with their deepest fears, and to finally discover the compassionate heart of a family.

My Thoughts:

I would like to thank Lake Union Publishing and NetGalley for a copy of this novel. Slated to release this December, Catherine Ryan Hyde’s upcoming novel will pull you into a world of horses, cattle and people. Filled with heavy emotions, this story is as different from her others as it can be. Having red and reviewed Allie and Bea earlier this year, I am impressed at the diversity in the plots and the way the author writes. It is a pleasure to read her stories and there is always something to learn out of them.

The story revolves around Aiden, a man in his forties, who experiences something he refers to as “The Wake-up”, the title of this story. All of sudden he is able to feel the emotions – fear, happiness, sadness, desperation, etc of animals around him. Being a cattle rancher, there is a lot to deal with and the decision to stop scares not only Aiden, but people around him who have known him for a very long time. This concept is a lot to take in and deal with.

As the story progresses, Aiden is left alone by his neighbours and girlfriend, mostly due to his sudden change in behaviour which nobody understands or wants to. During this time, he meets Gwen, a single mother and her two children Elizabeth and Milo. Gwen is like a ray of sunshine in Aidden’s life, giving him the hope that he will be alright. Elizabeth is mature for her age and a very understanding child, the perfect child that every parent would want.

Milo on the other hand has been a victim of abuse at the hands of his father and acts out in a lot of harmful ways, especially towards animals. It is difficult to talk to him, to understand him and he doesn’t get along with Aiden. Here starts the story, the journey of healing and acceptance. As Aiden starts to seek help, his therapy sessions bring out a lot about his childhood and helps the reader understand who he is and how he came to be this way, including how his own step-father took a chance on him. This inspires him to try to help Milo, to earn his trust and to show him that he is worthy of love no matter what he has gone through.

The story also shows us how if you place your trust in a person and show them that they can achieve things in their life, it will change them. The story comes full circle with a horse birthing, that being the moment which changed young Aiden’s life and later something that helps Milo. As the truth unfolds, it is shocking to discover the abuse Milo has dealt with as well as the kind of dysfunctional family Aiden lived in until his step-father came into his life and helped him.

The reader will marvel at the subtle hints the author drops about the issues raised and how the simplest gesture can hold more meaning than a big grand one. A story of trust, acceptance and learning, ‘The Wake Up’ will leave the reader with a lot to think about and maybe the concept of being sensitive to other people’s feelings if not other beings.

Book Review: The Silent Wife by Kerry Fisher

I received a complementary copy of this book from NetGalley.

About the Book:

The Silent Wife

Would you risk everything for the man you loved? Even if you knew he’d done something terrible?

A heart wrenching and gripping tale. I was hooked from the very first page.’ Write Escape

Lara’s life looks perfect on the surface. Gorgeous doting husband Massimo, sweet little son Sandro and the perfect home. Lara knows something about Massimo. Something she can’t tell anyone else or everything Massimo has worked so hard for will be destroyed: his job, their reputation, their son. This secret is keeping Lara a prisoner in her marriage.

Maggie is married to Massimo’s brother Nico and lives with him and her troubled stepdaughter. She knows all of Nico’s darkest secrets – or so she thinks. The one day she discovers a letter in the attic which reveals a shocking secret about Nico’s first wife Caitlin. Will Maggie set the record straight or keep silent to protect those she loves?

For a family held together by lies, the truth will come at a devastating price.

A heart-wrenching, emotionally gripping read for fans of Amanda Prowse, Liane Moriarty and Diane Chamberlain.

My Thoughts:

A Silent Wife is a well-written novel that brings out the secrets and lies that surround a family and the experiences of being a second wife. It highlights the fact that one can never truly know a person. The perception we may have of someone is sometimes how we want to see them and not a clear reflection of who they truly are.

The author has crafted her story masterfully, bringing it to life from the points of view of two of her key characters, Lara and Maggie. Both of them are second wives and married to brothers, Massimo and Nico. While Maggie is dealing with the new prospect of being a step-mother and trying to forge relationships while also trying to prove that she is not a gold-digger, Lara hides behind a carefully created facade. When Maggie partially discovers a secret related to Nico’s first wife, she is at a cross-roads: keep the secret or open up a can of worms that may make her lose her love and the family they have formed forever.

At times, the story seemed to drag a little and there was some repetition when it came to how the characters felt in various situations. However, in spite of this, she has created characters whom we can relate to in a modern setting. The emotions are deep and easily understood by the reader. I particularly enjoyed how Maggie handled situations and her mother stole the show for me. Her role in this story and her friendly nature serve to bring Lara out of her cocoon, thus changing the course of events slowly.

The story brings out many issues, including the role of a woman in a marriage and the man as the sole earning member of the family, contrasting the various points of views through character perceptions. Through Massimo, we see a competitive streak, the Alpha male, someone who needs to always be above everyone else. He is driven and expects his son to be macho and athletic while the child is more oriented towards the arts. Nico on the other hand is more artistic and understands a child’s need to have fun and be themselves. As the story unfolds, these differences come into prominence, further defining their relationship with their respective wives and children.

Bottomline: Read, enjoy and take away the messages embedded deep within this emotional roller-coaster ride!