Amy wants, more than anything, to be normal and to have a normal life. George is searching for love and the acceptance that no one aside from Amy ever offered him. Kate has shut herself off emotionally and in lieu of a relationship, drives herself through her high-powered legal job. And Finn, the least likely to make waves when they were younger, is drinking himself into an early grave. None of the four is undamaged by their unbringing. But each of the four is also struggling to overcome and to learn the happiness they were never taught as children watching their parents lash out at and destroy each others' lives with carelessness, apathy and disloyalty. Through it all, none of the siblings is capable of severing connections entirely. Each retains a shred of love for their parents and for each other which manifests itself throughout the years covered in the novel in surprising ways.
Although there is no physical abuse, the scars of the characters' early lives are still raw and visible. And that makes this book sad in tone and emotionally draining. And yet, despite this almost despairing sense, there is hope in the fragile family connections they retain and in their developing abilities to make a new, stronger family for themselves amongst those who accept and love them in the end. The writing here is fluid and smoothly sweeps the reader along. The characters, flawed and pitiable as they all are, are entirely sympathetic. We are given more about Amy and George than about Kate and Finn but perhaps their aching for love and normalcy in their lives is more resonant than the workaholism and alcoholism of Kate and Finn would have been. The story was not full of action and fireworks but was quietly emotional and relentless and true to life. And yet there was a lost and wandering, a sense of melancholy to the tale that burrows into the reader, keeping the pages turning in hopes of finding out that these characters find some happiness and sense of peace for themselves in the end.
The final section of the book, narrated by Marilyn, the mother of these four bent not broken siblings, was much more hopeful than the sections narrated by the siblings but it was almost a bit too hopeful given her absence and neglect from their lives to that point. Certainly her remorse at what she recognizes she's had a large hand in doing to her children is earned and their continued slight wariness in her presence feels authentic but without understanding how she has come to face her past transgressions, it seems so different from the rest of the book that it makes a bit of an awkward fit.
A complex stew of modern day family, dysfunctions, and the things that keep us bound, however tenuously, this is a gripping, gut-aching story and one that will keep you thinking long after the last page is turned.
Be sure to visit author Robin Antalek's website to read an excerpt or learn more about the author.
Thanks to TLC Book Tours and Harper Publishing for sending me a review copy of this book.
This review is a part of a TLC Book Tours blog tour.