Massachusetts-based author Ossowski’s debut about a family’s fragmentation, forgiveness and love.
Single parent Therese Wolley works hard to support her two daughters financially and emotionally. Older daughter Matilda sometimes suffers from nightmares, and young Franny interprets her world from an autistic perspective, enveloping herself in letters. But an item in the newspaper and an obligation to fulfill a promise abruptly alter the family dynamics. Therese packs the girls in her car and drives to her friend Leah’s home, which Franny thinks “smells like art.” The next day, Leah takes Franny on an outing, and Franny returns to discover her world is totally unbalanced. Therese and Matilda are gone, although her sister leaves behind a journal and a promise to return for her. Franny doesn’t understand her abandonment, but in many ways, she copes with the changes in her life in healthier ways than her sibling, her mother and guardian. Leah buries her demons until Franny innocently uncovers them while asking about pieces of artwork she finds under a mattress. Meanwhile, Matilda and her mother settle into an apartment in another town, and Matilda acts out her resentment toward her mother by allying herself with a neighborhood bad boy, skipping school, sneaking out of the house and drinking. Therese stubbornly refuses to supply satisfactory answers to Matilda’s questions, and she spends more time away from home as she worries that the past will come back to haunt her and her daughter. Although it does not have the strongest plot or ending, Ossowski’s narrative is more about the characters and their individual journeys: The author artfully portrays each in meticulous detail and employs superlative imagery to paint every thought and action.
Ossowski, a mother of three (including a child with special needs), touchingly examines the elements that bind families together.