In Driver-Thiel’s debut novel, a trio of imperfect women contend with the revelation that their lives are connected.
While Anne and Henry Bennett vacation in China, “insulated from the harsher realities of life,” their daughter, Sylvia, heads to Cedar Beach, Mich., to find Callie Collins, the daughter Anne gave up for adoption 10 years before Sylvia was born. The unexpected reunion of the half sisters—one, rich and lonely, the other, living hand-to-mouth but with the love of a good family—causes conflict, especially in an economy “sinking like a pig in mud.” At first, Callie resents the intrusion of her privileged sister, but Sylvia persists, eventually lending a hand at the Stone’s Throw Tavern, the floundering business run by Callie and her husband, Brad. When Sylvia asks Callie to attend her wedding to Pierson Kent IV, Callie refuses, “not interested in being the bombshell” Sylvia wants to drop on Anne. The Stone’s Throw also brings photographer Mike Kowalski, the “perfect blend of Midwestern farm boy and California surfer,” into Sylvia’s life. Through Mike’s eyes, Sylvia sees things in a new way and experiences “an unfamiliar and delicious sense of freedom.” When she returns to the East Coast, her mother’s harsh reaction to the unveiling of her secret is jaw-dropping, but it opens the way for Sylvia to create a new life for herself. Driver-Thiel’s well-crafted sentences unfold like a tight mystery, revealing secrets with a delicate touch. Depictions of rural life in the Thumb of Michigan juxtapose cleverly with the Bennett’s rarified world, where the value of people is measured “in terms of clothes, cars and country clubs.” With agility, the narrator weaves in and out of the minds of her three main characters, establishing a love/hate triangle built on Anne’s refusal to upset her “carefully constructed world.” Driver-Thiel’s ability to make the reader empathize with such a heartless character might be the book’s most remarkable feat.
An inviting page-turner about turning the page on the past.