A dysfunctional Canadian family struggles toward redemption.
Janet McKenzie’s funeral brings Becky, her youngest daughter, home to tiny Hope River for the first time in 30 years. A posh Vancouver banker coping with widowhood by lavishing all her love on her husband’s dog (Sampson), Becky, who now prefers to be called Rebecca, must face a plethora of demons: Shirley, her embittered sister; Jimmy, her ex-con brother; Bob, the alcoholic dad whose grief sends him sliding in and out of dementia; and memories of the tyrannical, abusive grandfather who terrorized the whole family. In sorting through her mother’s things, Rebecca finds a series of journals recounting every loathsome deed that befell her since coming to Hope River as an English war bride back in 1946. Appalling as some of them were, they pale beside Rebecca’s own horror while she’s out walking Sampson—finding first the scarf, then the body of missing teenager Jennifer Taylor. When the townsfolk are quick to blame Jimmy, Rebecca, intent on helping him and his wife Aileen, is harassed, brutalized and ultimately forced to violence herself.
Not so much reveling in family secrets as insisting that families can overcome them, debut novelist Delany is adept at ratcheting up the emotional tension but less proficient at making the mystery elements of her story convincing.