A crowded contemporary story with a Holocaust secret at its core.
On the eve of 11th grade, blonde, white, blue-eyed Livvy is dragged across the country by her alcoholic (five years sober) mother for unclear reasons. Livvy is determined to get them back to Vermont until she learns the real reason for the move: her grandmother, who her mother had told her was dead, is still alive. She’s suffering from Alzheimer’s, and Livvy’s mother is prepared to be her caregiver for fear of being written out of the will. What follows is a jam-packed narrative with a full complement of tropes and topical elements: new girl; friend issues (the back-home friends are classic mean girls); alcoholism; family secrets (involving the Holocaust); neo-Nazis; predatory elder care; armed robbery—and a romance. It’s a lot for just about 300 pages, and the suspension of disbelief required is damaged by the overly explicit first-person narration. That Livvy has a photographic memory that fuels her habit of spewing facts doesn’t make the exposition less stiff. The grandmother’s mysterious past (is she Anne Frank? A Nazi?) intrigues, and the questions—is it possible to forgive her? To love her?—could have made a complex novel in their own right; here, they are settled in five pages.
An intriguing premise (or three) drowning under its own weight. (Fiction. 12-16)