When Claire gives up her dreams of a literary degree and life spent in books to marry Forster Baumsarg and live with him on his family's citrus farm, she knows that she is choosing a life of physical labor and financial uncertainty. What she doesn't know is how tied to the land she will become both physically and emotionally, invested in the success of the farm and desperately attached to it even in the face of terrible tragedy. When Claire and Forster's young son Josh is kidnapped and murdered, his body buried at the foot of the original root stock tree, Claire and Forster start their long slide away from each other, differing on whether to leave the farm and start anew or to dig into the soil that has supported the Baumsarg's for so long, the rich soil at the root of Josh's death which became his final resting place. Gwen and Lucy, Claire and Forster's daughters, are also indelibly marked by their younger brother's senseless death and they cannot get away from the farm fast enough and side with their father when he urges Claire to let him sell out to developers as so many of their neighbors have done.
Years after the tragedy, Claire is alone on the farm with the girls grown and gone, divorced from Forster although maintaining an amicable relationship with him, tied forever by their shared loss. But when Claire is disagnosed with breast cancer, she needs someone to care for her as she undergoes treatments and neither of the girls wants to come back to the farm to oversee their mother. So when free-spirit daughter Lucy finds the appealing and mesmerizing Minna, the professed great-granddaughter of novelist Jean Rhys, everyone jumps at this simple solution to a live-in caretaker. And yet everything is not as it seems with Minna. Her story slips and slides, rife with small, almost unnoticed inconsistencies. But she winnows her way into the beleagured and weary heart of Claire. Although she drives away the very people upon whom Claire has depended for years, farm foreman and family friend Octavio and his daughter Paz, widowed neighbor Mrs. Girbaldi, and the local Hollywood leading man Don Richards, and isolates her at the farm, Minna becomes Claire's lifeline, the only person she sees for days at a time as she descends into the hell of treatment for her cancer. And despite the fact that there are disturbing occurances surrounding Minna, Claire defends her and depends on her, trusting her with her very life.
Told in several sections, including one that details Minna's life in Haiti and how she ended up in California on Claire's farm, the writing in this novel is gorgeous and lushly descriptive, cinematic in scope. Throughout it all, there are threads of sinister, almost gothic undertones. The characters are multi-dimensional and complex. Claire's stubbornness, entrenched sadness, and regret resonate through her interactions with others. The brief snatches where Claire (and the reader) see through the veil of caring to Minna's core are alarming. And the tension spirals ever tighter as the novel progresses. In the end, this is a masterful, deeply symbolic story of loss and connection and belonging.
For more information about Tatjana Soli and the book visit her web page. Follow the rest of the blog tour or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.
Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review.