Eloise and her family decide to make a big move from London, the city that Eloise lives and breathes every single day, to Dartmouth, where her husband grew up and where he desperately wants to be. She's nervous about the move, but knows it is the right thing for her family. It does mean leaving behind her best friend Sara who is going through some tough times personally, but Eloise has to do what is right for her. When the Hamilton's arrive in Dartmouth, Eloise and Mark are shocked to find out that his mother isn't as well as they had thought, and suddenly their lives are turned upside-down. Eloise begins to buckle under the responsibility of looking after everyone, but will she be able to help her family, Sara and Margaret to keep things going - whatever it takes?
I have to say I really did enjoy this book. I enjoyed how it started in London, showing Eloise at her most comfortable and happiest, and then moving throughout her first year in Dartmouth and showing how she starts to settle in and get used to a much quieter pace of life. I loved the way Parks wrote about Dartmouth, it sounds absolutely idyllic and beautiful, and I can see why even a city-lover like Eloise grows to love the place. Parks writes the beautiful views, lovely town and the people with such realism and warmth, it's easy to imagine it in your mind as you are reading. The characters too are all written fantastically, there aren't too many of them in the book but this allows the reader to get to know them well enough and really feel sorry for each of their individual plights. The book is divided into months as well, so we can easily follow the journey of these characters and see their growth and/or decline which makes it works so well.
Eloise is a bit of a people-pleaser shall we say, always eager to help out and do the best for people, even if it isn't necessarily in her best interests to do so. I found her a tad annoying at times, that she couldn't stand up to her old friend Sara in particular, especially when it was called for, but other than that, I really liked her and thought she is the perfect leading lady for the book. Her friend Sara on the hand, is a character I think we're meant to sympathise with because of her troubles, but I just couldn't stand her and the more the book went on, the more I really disliked her - she's just a horrible person! Eloise's husband Mark is a well written male character dealing with some shock revelations, and I think Parks writes his turmoil so well. Margaret, Mark's mother is a lovely old lady battling a horrible illness, and at times its hard to read her decline, but Parks does it so well.
Parks covers some really serious issues in the book, from Alzheimer's, to infidelity and infertility, and I found the issues were all woven so well into the plot, and were hard-hitting to read about. Parks has clearly done her research around them, and writes them in such a way you understand entirely what is going on even if you don't have much knowledge of the subject itself. The story handles these topics perfectly, and although it felt like the whole book was a bit depressing at times (hence knocking one star off the rating), it was a powerful book that really does encourage you to think about your own life and to be grateful for what you have. While I guessed some of the plot lines, there were others, particularly the ending, which I didn't see coming at all, and with hindsight there were clues there, but I didn't expect what happened to occur at all, and full marks to Parks for keeping that from us! A really beautifully written novel, and one I would recommend.