As Alison watches her father in his new life, she is forced to face her own new life. She forges her own connections with his friends, listening to them talk about their history, both personal and general. As she listens, she starts to open herself to caring for others again, learning the inevitability of loss and grief but also the power and endurance of love. She is most inspired by the nonagenarian Edie, who has herself lived through unimaginable loss. Narrated in turn by both Ali and Edie, the novel flips from the present to WWII and back again. Once Ali and Edie make their tenuous connection to each other, Edie doles out the story of her past and her beloved husband Franz in small dibs and dabs, testing the water to see if Ali can be open-minded hearing about her love story with a Nazi officer. As the story unspools and Ali comes to understand the unexpected depths of it, she learns by example how to find the strength to start over and to really examine what she wants out of her life.
The characters are richly developed and Ali for sure shows a large amount of personal growth. Porter has done a good job organically weaving in the unusual angle of the German Resistance and the 20 July Plot into a story line centered on love, healing, and looking forward. There is just a tiny hint of potential romance here, making it firmly women's fiction with historical overtones rather than a romance. For longtime Porter readers, there is a brief mention and cameo of a previous character from one of her older novels as well. The story overall is a sad, often depressing, one centered on loss and grief and being left behind but, in the end, it also offers hope for the future, for repairing relationships, and for the peace that comes with forgiveness or understanding. The reasons for Andrew's suicide are never fully explored but the resulting effect on Ali's life is unmistakable, regardless of his reasons. Ali and Edie's relationship often feels tentative, making it seem a bit strange that this very private woman opens up and shares her unhappy past with this young woman she isn't always certain she likes (and who she certainly doesn't want for her great-nephew). But the emotional impact of Edie's tale, her lost love and the way she chose to live her life beyond it, is the only thing that helps Ali re-evaluate her own stasis. The novel is a very quick read, one that is a generally satisfying addition to your summer reading.
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Thanks to the publisher and BookSparks PR for sending me a copy of the book for review.