A shapely meandering debut explores the hazards of lying to the children.
Renee McGarry and her fatherless daughter Jenna have undergone similar love traumas as young women, both pregnant as teenagers and forced to deal with the shock from the tragic, untimely death of their men. Raised for the most part by Renee's older sister, Adeline, in their childhood home in coastal Maine—before a mysterious rift destroyed the sisters' relationship, followed by Adeline's death by driving into the sea—Jenna left college when she got pregnant, but married Seth Morton anyway when she miscarried. Years later, however, when Seth dies in a car accident, Jenna spins into a depression, and recognizes that her emotional healing involves unraveling the secrets around the incident that compelled her now-married mother to move away from Aunt Adeline's house in Maine to Massachussetts, when Jenna was seven. Getting around Renee's chilly, hard-shelled nature provides this well-meaning, rather repetitive tale its main conflict; and in alternating points of view, Martin attempts to round out the prickly mother-daughter relationship. Jenna is a sympathetic character we can root for, although there’s not a strong enough sense of Seth to miss him; and the sudden violent deaths of so many tertiary characters (boyfriend, husband, sister, babies) diffuse the story’s energy. Martin is a strong writer, yet the forced secrets (of both Renee's teenaged years and also Jenna's) and deathly details lend this a decided soap-opera quality.
A sincere first effort gets mired in the plot's undertow.