One woman’s valuable and heartfelt journey to the next phase of her life.



A grieving widow, lost and alone, escapes to a wild terrain in this debut novel.

Sorrow can be a funny thing—just when people think that they have it in check, it sneaks up on them when they least expect it. Such is the case with Grace Irwin. After the unexpected death of her husband, Grace finds herself unmoored. She’s unsure where she belongs, and now that she doesn’t have a spouse or children (they are all grown up) to take care of, she doesn’t know who she is. In search of clarity, Grace heads to northern Ontario’s French River, and each passing day helps her cope. Eventually, she realizes that though she was happy, the life she led with her husband wasn’t the one she set out to have. Through letters and testimonies, she confesses this to him. What could Grace have been if she hadn’t gone along with the societal and patriarchal expectations that she would get married, be a wife and mother, and do nothing else? She can only answer this question as she pushes aside her past, and in doing so, she (and her new friends) finds a quiet strength and plenty of possibilities. Andrews’ work mirrors the stages of grief—in the beginning, the story feels heavy with uncertainty and doubt, but as Grace becomes surer of herself, the tale sheds her regrets. The book’s vibe reflects her healing. Countless novels trace a woman’s exploration, but here that subject rises above a cliché. Grace’s feelings are raw and she’s far from perfect, which makes her odyssey more engaging. Another piece of the narrative frame, Grace’s letters, remains engrossing because she failed to speak these words to her husband because of his pride and her fear. A host of readers should relate to this situation, but the fact that Grace writes her misgivings down as a means of catharsis becomes especially poignant. While she may not have flourished in the way she had hoped, she gets the last word. The author peppers nuggets of wisdom throughout the book, such as “There are no measurements for what’s hard, you know. Hard is hard.” These gems are worth highlighting. Like Grace, many readers are lost in a labyrinth, and it’s with honesty and a few trusted friends that they can move into the future.

One woman’s valuable and heartfelt journey to the next phase of her life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4602-8935-8

Page Count: -

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2016

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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