The threads of a dead man’s life and history converge in Armour’s dramatic debut novel about heritage, family, and forgiveness.
When Stanley Kostoff dies, it seems like everything—his life, his love, his family’s happiness—comes crashing to a close. But when his widow and children move from Phoenix back to his hometown in Middleburg, Indiana, a new beginning might be on the horizon. For Mary, his widow, it means a new job and a new life away from friends and memories. For Rosetta, his high school sweetheart, it means the story of long-dead teenage romance may not yet have found closure. And for his grief-stricken son, Teddy, it means a chance to start again, however reluctantly, away from the guilt over his father’s death but also away from his friends, girlfriend, and a spot on the varsity basketball team. As the family settles in with Stan’s mother, Baba, they find that their new beginning comes saddled with the relics of Stan’s past. In the attic, Teddy finds an old book of wisdom that offers insight into his father’s Bulgarian heritage as it helps him overcome his guilt, master his sorrows, and see beyond the petty frustrations of varsity basketball and moving to a new school. New friendships abound—from a quirky, know-it-all locker mate, Mindy, and a teenage burn victim, Joe, to the sometimes-fraught interactions between Mary and Rosetta. Readers will admire Teddy’s large, if tragically incomplete, circle of friends and family. The plot is peppered with enough dramatic turns and strange coincidences to fill a soap opera season, and while the tropes—forbidden love, unplanned pregnancy, and drunk driving deaths among them—can occasionally feel tired, Armour generates enough interest in her characters to retain reader interest. If the plot occasionally succumbs to melodrama, the same cannot be said for the portrayal of the family’s loss, which remains both sensitive and realistic as it chronicles the difficult, sometimes-ugly stages of grief.
A two-tissue tale about life after loss.