Driver-Thiel’s (The World Undone, 2012) sequel continues the story of Anne Bennett, a woman who, after a personal upheaval, must reconnect with her two estranged daughters.
For most of her adult life, Anne has been a reserved, unemotional woman. In a companionable yet loveless marriage to Henry, she has what seems to be an ideal life: affluence in a house that “had been featured in New England Designer Showcase Homes.” Anne wants for nothing—nothing except perhaps to forget about her rebellious daughter Sylvia. Seven years ago, just before her wedding in the previous book, Sylvia ran away to the unlikely state of Michigan. Not only that, but she had threatened to force Anne to meet Sylvia’s half sister Callie, whom Anne had given up for adoption as a teenager. The one to whom Anne, through her lawyer, had paid a hefty sum to never speak with again. However, when Henry dies suddenly from a heart attack, she learns that his business is under federal investigation. Nearly all her assets frozen, Anne moves in with her sister Julia. The visit goes from unpleasant to intolerable, so when Anne receives an invitation from Sylvia, she accepts. Anne is again reluctant, though, for she doesn’t know how or if she will ever repair their relationship, and she dreads seeing Callie, who lives and works nearby. In order to cobble together an entirely new life, Anne must challenge deeply rooted beliefs about herself and her family as she confronts emotions she has pushed down for far too long. Fans of Driver-Thiel’s first novel may be surprised by the shift from third- to first-person narration here, all in Anne’s point of view. They will likely understand, though, as Anne certainly has a lot of explaining to do. Through the story, Anne shifts from a model of arrogance and cruelty to a more receptive, pragmatic woman willing to accept and attempt to change her own faults. This progression is slow, almost imperceptible, so although readers may sometimes feel that Anne’s bouts of introspection are a bit lengthy, the overall impression of her transformation is satisfyingly realistic. In Driver-Thiel’s capable hands, the story hits its target: the possibility of redemption in even the unlikeliest of people.
A gratifying follow-up that will leave readers clamoring for more.