Returning to a format that's proven effective in her past work, Ward (Close Your Eyes, 2011, etc.) creates two very different storylines with no obvious clues as to how they will intersect.
Alice lives with her husband, Jake, in Austin, Texas, where they own a wildly successful barbecue joint but have been unlucky in their attempts to adopt a child. Alice—who lost her mother at age 8, then went through extensive cancer treatments during college—refuses to acknowledge her sadness, which causes tension in her relationships with Jake and others. Eleven-year-old Carla, in Honduras, sees her means of support slip away after her mother moves to America and her caretaker grandmother dies. She's left alone to look after her little brother, and the two are slowly starving when Carla decides they will make the long, illegal trip to Texas to join their mother. Their journey is harrowing and traumatic. Ward writes with great empathy; Carla’s narrative is particularly page-turning and awful, but it doesn't make Alice's problems any less resonant. Both stories ask questions about what it means to be a survivor. Large amounts of dramatic material nudge the novel toward the sentimental, but it's pulled back by Ward's narrative skill. The spare tone adds urgency to the pacing and suggests a steely reserve on each protagonist's part.
Earnest and well-told. Heartstrings will be pulled.