A tumultuous family drama in which characters contend with the legacies of the past, troubles of the present, and uncertainties of the future.
Goodwin’s debut novel opens with a young boy coming downstairs to find his mother, who’s apparently involved in the drug trade, dead by suicide. The novel then jumps forward several decades; the boy, Robert Lovelace, is now a retired postal worker with three children. Robert mourns the death of his adoptive mother, Big Mama; worries about his children; and harbors a secret. The novel is divided into short chapters, which mostly follow Robert and his three kids: Angela Lovelace, who works as an emergency-response social worker; Sharyn Lovelace Sanders, struggling with her marriage and trying to conceive; and Kevon Lovelace, a college student experimenting with self-sabotage through alcoholism and infidelity. Goodwin has a knack for weaving the characters’ storylines together, often emphasizing the similarities between them. Angela stumbles upon the novel’s greatest mystery while answering an emergency call: At an apartment where a woman has overdosed, Angela sees a photo of her father on the wall. She soon investigates the connection between her dad and the troubled woman. The aptly titled novel promises to reveal what Robert hasn’t told his family—information that he keeps in the “distant area of his heart—the space no one was supposed to see or touch, where all his secrets had taken residence.” Goodwin easily wrings plenty of drama, humor, and emotion for interactions between the various players. However, the prose often stumbles with figurative language, as when Robert considers his ex-wife: “She was like a log crackling in the fireplace; standing close produced warmth, but too close, fire.” Still, the author effectively keeps readers interested by bouncing from character to character—all the while, enumerating the triumphs and strife of a single family.
A mostly successful novel about lives that are neither easy nor ordinary.