Saturday, June 21, 2014

Review: The Witch of Belladonna Bay by Suzanne Palmieri

Magic and the supernatural are not usually things I search out in the books I read. There's magic enough just in the escape found in books for me. But occasionally a little extra magic in a book helps to drive the story onwards. In Suzanne Palmieri's new novel, The Witch of Belladonna Bay, magic and the supernatural swirl all through the characters and the plot of this novel about a family coming back together, facing long avoided truths, and learning to embrace love.

Bronwyn Whalen left her Alabama town fourteen years ago, after her mother's opium overdose and she hasn't been home since. But now she's got to go back. Her brother Paddy is in jail for murdering her childhood best friend Charlotte and Charlotte's son Jamie.  Paddy's daughter Byrd, the niece Wyn has never met, needs her. So despite her misgivings and no desire to face the unresolved feelings that her home and family inspire in her, Wyn heads home to her alcoholic father, Jackson, wealthy and privileged mayor of the town; to her great aunt and the mysterious man she married; to her memories and ghosts, literal and figurative; to the place where her long suppressed powers belong; to free spirited and precocious Byrd; and to BitsyWyn, the sassy, determined Southerner she's been deep down all along.

Wyn is determined to discover who really killed Charlotte because she knows in her heart that it can't have been Paddy. As she digs around to exonerate her brother, she falls in love with her strange and magical niece, loving her fiercely and protectively. When Wyn's fiancĂ©, Ben, arrives in Alabama, she learns more about herself and the heritage she's been running from forever and she knows in her bones that she can never leave Byrd, no matter what. It is only when all the puzzle pieces are in place that Wyn can see not only what happened the night that Charlotte died and Jamie disappeared but that she can start to help those she loves heal all of the hurts they have carried for so long.

Narrated in turn by Wyn, Byrd, and Naomi, Wyn's dead mother, the story is more about coming to accept and love who you are down to your very soul than it is about the mystery surrounding Charlotte's death. Wyn is holding onto bitterness and carrying a load of guilt that has left her something less than happy. Byrd is an old soul, funny, earnest, and loving beyond her years. Naomi is held back by her regret and the need to explain and ask for forgiveness for her choices. And while Jackson chooses alcohol over everything, he still loves his family, wanting the best for them. The scene is very southern Gothic with the hovering mist over the forbidding and scary island in Belladonna Bay and the characters are suitably eccentric. There are quite a few plot threads weaving through the narrative, Ben as Wyn's caretaker, what really happened to Charlotte, Wyn's childhood love and Charlotte's brother Grant and his role in everything, Byrd's powers, and more, not all of which are as fully developed as might have been. But even so the novel is enticing. The resolution of the mystery is one part predictable and another part surprise and the end of the novel wraps up tidily, moving from slightly sinister feeling to contented, a tone shift that is a bit abrupt. Over all though, a good read, this will appeal to fans of the supernatural, contemporary southern fiction, and those who like reading about families who find their way back to each other and to their hearts.

For more information about Suzanne Palmieri and the book, check out her website, her Facebook page, follow her on Twitter, or connect with her on GoodReads. Take a look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Janay from Book Sparks PR and the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.

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