A destitute middle-aged woman claws her way back from financial and emotional devastation.
This final installment of a trilogy follows the ill-fated Hester Randal as she struggles to cope with the many disappointments of her past. When the novel opens, Hester is living in an abandoned trailer park, still smarting about the husband who cheated on her and the baby she effectively abandoned. Her main goal is to devise a way to return from Florida to the baby she left behind in New Jersey with her father, Jimmy Raymer, and his new wife, Cecilia. Unfortunately, Hester has no money to her name, and no means of traveling to New Jersey. Despite the promises that the couple made to her about sending progress reports on baby Pearl, they have failed to respond to any of Hester’s calls, or communicate in any manner whatsoever. Hester grows increasingly concerned about her child, and she finally resolves to start making changes. To her great relief, she lands a job as a waitress at a local diner, a position she considers beneath her, but is thankful to have secured after the scandals of her past (“She was focused on making money, and the Woolbright Diner was the place where this had a chance of happening”). Hester begins to adjust her self-image, determining that nothing will stop her from returning to her daughter. She also starts developing a relationship with a kind and handsome man who lives nearby, giving readers hope that she might yet create a satisfying life for herself. Told in the same accessible prose as the previous books of the trilogy (On the Edge of Dangerous Things, 2013; In an Awful Way, 2014), the finale wraps up many loose ends. But the narrative has a slower pace, with too much of the book devoted to rehashing the events from prior installments. Even so, Snyder-Carroll (Click…Kill, 2015, etc.) holds the reader’s interest by continuing to introduce new complications, including natural disasters and run-ins with old foes. The second half of the gritty novel moves more quickly than the first part, as many old plotlines alter their previous courses.
A meandering and sometimes-twisted tale of uphill battles and unexpected determination.