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by Darcie Chan

Pub Date: May 18th, 2011

The hardworking people of a small Vermont town are on the receiving end of a benefactress’ goodwill.

Mary Hayes has not had an easy life. Plagued by bouts of pathological anxiety since being attacked at age 16, she greatly prefers the company of her father and her horses to anyone else’s. But when Patrick McAllister turns his commanding gaze toward her, she forces herself to abandon her shyness and meet his family, friends and business associates. Sadly, Patrick is not what he seems to be, and tragedy strikes anew. Left with limited eyesight and a fortune, Mary struggles to assimilate in the tiny rural Vermont community she watches from her mansion on a hill, doing anonymous good whenever she can. Daisy Delaine, for example, receives a new trailer when her old one burns down. The whole town receives brand new televisions just in time for the annual Christmas specials. After her death, Mary’s friend Father O’Brien continues in the tradition of giving by carrying out the generous wishes of her will. Chan’s sweet novel displays her talent. Sporting a complicated structure, it shifts back and forth between past and present and between various characters’ perspectives—the author handles these changes with confidence and doesn’t leave readers confused. Her characters are strong and precise, and she vibrantly portrays the setting, the small town of Mill River. The dialogue occasionally leans toward cliché, but not often enough to be distracting. Readers may even find comfort in the book’s foundation of predictability—this is not a novel that strives to break new ground, but rather settles in one’s lap like a familiar cat.

A comforting book about the random acts of kindness that hold communities together.