Ellen's Irish husband, Fintan, always maintained that he was an orphan but after his accidental death, Ellen runs into an old acquaintance who knew him back in Ireland and finds out that he lied to her for years. His mother is in fact alive. As Ellen struggles with her feelings about Fintan's unexpected death, their troubled marriage, and his obvious desire to close her out of his past, she decides that she should go to Ireland uncertain of her own reasons for making a pilgrimage that Fintan obviously would not have wanted or approved.
Once in Ireland, she meets Fintan's crotchety mother and discovers that there was quite a lot she never knew about her husband, much of which explains their fraught and unhappy marriage. Jo Dowd, Ellen's mother-in-law, is an unhappy, tough-as-nails farm woman who mostly keeps to herself. In fact, she doesn't even want a home nurse despite the fact that she has terminal cancer. But despite having only just met Ellen, she is willing to have her daughter-in-law move in and care for her.
As Ellen comes to know Jo and the others in the village, and to hear of more of Fintan's buried past, she comes to learn about forgiveness, how to move forward, how the future can hinge on the smallest of actions and past secrets. As she uncovers the bitter past, the hurts, and the betrayals, her finds sometimes makes the narrative bleed with despair, anger, and hopelessness. Told from the perspectives of multiple narrators and using interspersed flashbacks, there are multiple plot threads weaving through the book that at first seem unconnected but which come to create a complete tapestry by the end of the novel. The writing itself is very visceral and the characters' emotions, while spare seeming actually strike deeply but the over all feeling of the novel is one of hurt, wrongs, resentment, and regret. It has a desolate and anguished tone and even the faintly hopeful ending couldn't change that.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book for review.