In Hicks’ (Escape from Assisted Living, 2014) sequel, a senior widow acquaints herself with the pleasures of city life as she grapples with a damning family secret.
Betty Miles, an octogenarian woman who recently ran away from her assisted living apartment in Elkhart, Indiana, moves to Chicago to reignite her joie de vivre. She moves in with her eccentric, metropolitan friend Eleanor Goldman, who makes it her job to brighten Betty’s tastes in clothing, food, culture, and even sex. While the two women gallivant around the city—taking French lessons, speed dating, whiling away hours in posh cafes—Betty’s daughter, Sharon D’Angelo, hunkers down in her newly opened bakery back in Elkhart. Betty’s move to the city strains the mother-daughter relationship. Sharon, though relieved that she no longer needs to worry about her mother keeping busy, is also troubled by Betty’s newfound lust for unconventional senior living. Betty, though enlivened by the energy of urban life, worries that she’s shirking her motherly duty by being so far away from her daughter as she starts a new business. But these discomforts turn out to be the least of the women’s concerns when a pink-haired young lady shows up at Sharon’s door one night to reveal a shocking family secret. Throughout the rest of the novel, Betty—who became privy to the secret in the previous installment—and Sharon attempt to protect each other from the truth. Hicks shows how this endeavor becomes increasingly fraught and difficult as both women encounter more coincidences that encourage a final revelation. Overall, the plot twists are skillfully placed and effectively threaten the tenderness that the author cultivates between Sharon and Betty. The writing is clean and breezy throughout; Hicks tackles weighty themes, including death, deceit, jealousy, and regret, but she does so with a sense of reserve and a cheerful sense of humor—an approach that makes for an indulgent reading experience.
A gentle family drama that’s as pleasant as watching an episode of Gilmore Girls or knitting in bed.