IF ONLY I COULD TELL YOU by Hannah Beckerman


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A mother and her two daughters’ bittersweet journey through three decades is tinged by all-encompassing grief, steadfast love, and deeply held secrets.

Audrey Siskin is a 62-year-old mother and grandmother facing her own mortality who realizes that the life she is leaving behind is not what she wants it to be. Finding herself pregnant and married at 18 had completely altered the life she expected to lead, and while she has never sung on stage, visited New York City, or even been the English professor she’d always dreamed of becoming, she has had a fulfilling life as a wife, school librarian, mother, and grandmother. But now, an aggressive form of cancer has her facing her own approaching death while her daughters, Lily and Jess, continue their 30-year estrangement from one another. Audrey dedicates the last months she has left to doing some of the things that her 16-year-old self aspired to do and trying to figure out a way to reconcile her children. The story unfolds in chapters written from three points of view: those of Audrey, Lily (the wealthy older sister, with a seemingly fabulous husband, house, job, and life, who yearns to reconnect with her younger sister), and Jess (the younger sister, scraping by, consumed with hatred for Lily because of the events of a devastating summer when she was 10 and her sister, 16). Author Beckerman (The Dead Wife’s Handbook, 2015) is masterful in her storytelling. The narrative is fractured through time and viewpoint into large, weighty chunks and small, sharp shards, and she joins these together seamlessly into a tense tale that is much stronger for its delivery. While the male characters are, perhaps, one-dimensional, the female characters—even secondary ones such as teenage granddaughters Phoebe and Mia—hold the limelight in turn and are fully wrought.

A gripping story about love and loss.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-06-289054-2
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2019