Char Hawthorn is faced with a terrible dilemma when her husband dies, leaving his ex-wife to decide whether or not Char will continue raising her teenage stepdaughter on her own.
Career-driven Lindy says she wants Allie but won’t make the time for her, while Char thinks Allie would be better off finishing out the school year at home but fears backlash from Lindy if she says so. Timmer's (Five Days Left, 2014) realistic dialogue and dark thoughts underscore the complicated emotions that govern blended families: “If you were Char, you worried you were trying too hard, making your stepdaughter (and her mother) suspect you were gunning for someone else’s job.” Char’s strategy to play it safe soon backfires, and the unspoken custody battle waged between the two mothers becomes a tragedy of manners that causes Allie to fill the silence by acting out. For Char to be untethered from her husband and child would be life-changing on its own, but her story sharply segues into that of the 10-year-old girl that Allie tutors, Morgan Crew, who was plucked from a series of foster homes and raised by a couple whose son has special needs. When Morgan disappears, Allie takes the law into her own hands with devastating consequences. How Char, Lindy, and Morgan’s parents handle the problem from there will leave readers with much to discuss about parental responsibility. While Char is likable, she has serious flaws that turn what at first seems to be a win-win situation into a morally ambiguous one—and the tension supplies plenty of fuel for late-night reading.
Dramatic, yes, but also a thoughtfully written and ultimately uplifting celebration of families that are not bound by blood or by law but by love.