Stapley’s debut novel explores the evolving relationships among mother, daughters, sisters…and the men in their lives.
Free-spirited Helen has three grown daughters, each by a different father, none of whom she ever married. Firstborn Fiona struggles for control and perfection in her life; artistic Ilsa fears losing her creative energies and seeks happiness in the wrong places; Liane, the youngest and not yet married, finally learns to make her own decisions. The title may suggest a story of eternal love, and indeed, the tale begins with a toast “to marriage, and to the possibility that maybe love can be, if you really work at it, everlasting.” But Stapley’s premise is that it isn’t always possible, or even desirable, to stay in a lifelong partnership. Not one of the sisters has a perfect connection with her partner, and neither do they have ideal relationships with each other or with their mother. As the women resolve their sister-daughter issues, each gains perspective on her romantic liaison as well and, after soul-searching, either encourages it to grow or allows it to dissolve. So, no, this is not a happily-ever-after tale. Nevertheless, the characters find ways to create happiness that works for each of them. Stapley provides no significant new insights into relationships, but she weaves a credible story of personal growth and how it impacts family ties for better or worse. She’s gentle and nonjudgmental with her characters, allowing readers a peek into what motivates each one’s behavior. Readers may like one more than the others but will find themselves pulling for them all.
Stapley charmingly prefaces each chapter with a scientific tidbit about a particular animal or bird and its mating habits—perhaps an ironic nod to how similar people’s behavior is to animals’, for even the mate-for-life animals are, at times, unfaithful.