Lenfestey (A Mother's Conviction, 2015, etc.) offers readers a charming novel about family.
Claire Tillman’s life is falling apart. Couples counseling isn’t working, and her husband of 12 years, Ben, is ready to throw in the towel on their relationship. She quickly finds herself feeling like she has little to hold onto in life aside from the fulfillment she finds in her job as a high school social-studies teacher: “My students are my kids.” But when she finds Jaxon, one of those students, sleeping in his car, she’s truly spurred to action for the first time in years. The emotional core of the story is strong, and the prose is solid, with a dependable flow that allows the characters and their feelings to take center stage. Jaxon has grown up without a father, but now that he’s graduating high school and heading to college, he wants to meet his missing parent; he’s so fervent in this wish, in fact, that it’s caused conflict with his mom, who’s kicked him out of the house. Claire helps Jaxon in his search, and the two develop a real friendship. Meanwhile, she finds herself questioning her memories of her own father, who supposedly died in a car accident when she was young. The story strongly explores how personal history is never as simple as it first appears, and as it progresses, new perspectives—such as that of Jaxon’s possible father, who’s struggling with a loss of his own; and that of Hope, Claire’s half sister—complicate the main characters’ needs and wants. Ultimately, this is a story about relationships, and the author deftly balances disparate personalities, particularly in dialogue. What’s more, the message that the answers to people’s problems lie in human connection feels genuine. The characters’ lives may not be turning out as they planned, but that makes their journey toward solace all the more satisfying.
A comforting and moving character-driven tale.