Raped as a teen, a woman finds romance, a new art career, and new connections to family in this debut women’s fiction novel.
Matty Bell recalls jogging on a California beach with her often absent Navy father. It was the morning of sister Eleanor’s wedding and also Matty’s birthday; as a gift, Matty was given a truck to drive to art school in San Diego. Instead, she bolted for Baltimore, joining friend Claire, after Matty’s boozy mother dismissed Matty’s revelation of being repeatedly raped at 16 by her young boyfriend, Jett. “She”— Eleanor—“said you’d do it,” Jett had told Matty before raping her. Matty is now 30 and living in Baltimore, and Claire, married with kids, is moving to Germany. Matty realizes she must fully face her past. She discusses her trauma in therapy, contacts authorities to file charges against an elusive Jett, and flies to California to confront Eleanor. On the plane, Matty meets handsome widowed dad/restaurateur Ty. Eleanor leaves for a planned getaway with her husband, so Matty spends time alone, painting room murals. She also begins a relationship with Ty. When Eleanor returns, Matty learns more about her sister’s past and current issues, then revels in her own new life. Two years later, still in California, “I found myself, I found my family. I found love,” Matty says. This isn’t a book only about ugliness and trauma. “On the contrary,” Mack writes, “it focuses on the healing aspects one must go through to find peace and light at the end of the trauma tunnel.” Indeed, Mack’s novel is an enjoyable tale that transforms ugly duckling Matty—initially in self-imposed exile complete with drab clothing—into a swan. Readers will root for sympathetic, wryly charming Matty even as her trauma somewhat surprisingly ebbs into the background. Reconciliation with her dysfunctional family is a bit too pat, and her meeting another Jett victim and Jett’s unknown whereabouts are worrisome loose threads that Mack will perhaps address in a future book.
Uplifting chick lit full of heart and hope and featuring an appealing heroine and trauma survivor.