An activist fights to change Georgia law to protect abused women and children, while her husband and kids make momentous career decisions, in this second installment of a historical drama.
By 2000, 52-year-old Caroline Wellington Winthrop has a loving marriage with Garrett and two fully grown children, John and Katie. She’d founded the successful New Beginnings Home for Abused Women and Children years ago, helping educate women to live confidently and independently of abusive men. Caroline herself grew up with an alcoholic father who often beat her mother, Charlotte. This fuels her passion to amend Georgia law to protect women and children in abusive homes. She’ll just have to convince the governor that opening a detention center for domestic violence offenders is valid, as well as rehabilitating the inmates with anger management classes and therapy. Members of her family, meanwhile, struggle with individual vocations. John isn’t sure what to do next now that he’s graduated from law school; he’s also in danger of mirroring his grandfather’s descent into alcoholism. Katie, ready for her senior year at Duke University, is prepped for medical school, but her newfound support of alternative healing may set her on an entirely different path. And Garrett, who incessantly travels between Washington, D.C., and Atlanta as the press secretary for a U.S. senator, also considers a change so he can be with the ones he loves. While Updegraff’s (A Season for Living, 2011) previous novel followed Caroline from birth to the start of this story, the sequel is more focused, concentrating on a period of less than two years. This allows subplots to shine, such as New Beginnings resident Sarah Foster overcoming her battered life, and both John and Katie entering into romances. The relaxed prose makes reading the book a breeze; predominantly honest characters, for one, tend to say exactly what they’re thinking. In the same vein, conservatism is a little glaring: liberals are the true villains, generally opposed to Caroline’s project or a potential mole on Garrett’s boss’s staff. Oft-uttered emotions, too, while sparking upbeat, gratifying moments, can be excessive, with trite words like “amazing” repeatedly used to describe others. There are, however, tragedies Caroline must endure—doleful scenes Updegraff’s slow but disciplined pacing more than earns.
Occasionally oversentimental, but watching members of a warmhearted Southern family sticking together remains a rewarding experience.