In Ragsdale’s (Tuesday’s Socks, 2014) second novel, a tightknit father and daughter face life-changing challenges that threaten the stability of their relationship.
David and Elizabeth Fredericks settle into their swanky hotel in Athens, Greece, as they begin a month’s vacation in Europe to revel in David’s new status as a retiree. They also have an unspoken hope that the trip will help strengthen their marriage, which was once nearly destroyed by David’s affair with a co-worker. Kate, their only child, is 30 years old and has always had a much tighter bond with her father, which has sometimes left Elizabeth feeling distant and isolated. On the second day of their vacation, Kate flies in from Edinburgh, Scotland, unannounced, to shakily announce that she’s happily in love with a woman. In an unexpected plot turn, Elizabeth reacts calmly, seeing a bright silver lining in the news: the potential for forging new bonds with her daughter. Her father, however, alternates between quiet seething and downright cruelty. Later, when Elizabeth takes day trips to spend more time with Kate and her partner, Charlotte, David clumsily struggles with anger, embarrassment, jealousy, and guilt. No longer is his affair coming between him and his wife; now their daughter is. When tragedy strikes, a change in the family dynamic causes even more complications. In one of many emotionally rich scenes, David drives to Edinburgh alone and locates Charlotte’s bakery, intent on confronting her and “telling her to leave his precious daughter the hell alone.” The author beautifully depicts his embarrassment and ineptitude as he bumbles through his purchase of two scones, as well as Charlotte’s dawning realization of his identity. The novel’s flowing dialogue prompts quick page turning, as it’s at once complex and believable. The descriptions of various geographic locales are as sumptuous and lyrical as a travelogue: “Fragrant lemongrass and lush ferns draped themselves over the stairs’ time-softened edges. Lush vines crept up trellises and wove themselves over arbors as hundreds of gold lights twinkled from amidst the green leaves, warming the walkways beneath.” Along the way, Ragsdale masterfully explores the characters’ emotions and the motivations behind their shifting alliances.
A thoroughly readable story about acceptance, forgiveness, and redemption.