Rice (What Matters Most, 2007, etc.) returns with another novel about family ties, love, hurt and redemption.
Susannah Connolly, a successful-on-paper anthropology professor, simultaneously loses her mother to lymphoma and ends a long-failing relationship with a colleague. To fulfill her mother’s last wish, Susannah travels to the French Camargue to locate a saint linked to her family. Rice picks a grand setting with the Camargue, but she fails to use the moonlit marshes to create anything more than overwrought suspense. The tale lacks subtlety in its exploration of local gypsy society, and the author fawns tirelessly over mystical white horses. In a rescue scene straight out of a fairy tale, Susannah meets tall, handsome rancher Grey Dempsey. Grey is raising his daughter, Sari, alone—Grey and Sari were abandoned by Sari’s mother five years earlier. Despite major personal issues, Grey and Susannah fall instantly (and inexplicably) in love, and from here the novel grows increasingly lackluster. Predictably, Sari and Susannah connect and begin to rediscover themselves. Susannah delves further into her past, ingratiating herself with the vengeful and persecuted female gypsy community, whose most important saint, Sarah, is associated with Susannah’s birth. Sari takes one step forward and two steps back, agreeing to ride for the first time since her mother left, then panicking. Ultimately Susannah takes it upon herself to find Sari’s mother so the broken family can find closure. The operatics of various scenes (at one point Susannah and Grey go scuba diving for cave art, in another they rescue a horse from quicksand) and the unrealistic dialogue are tiresome.
Nothing fresh here.