I got this book through Amazon Vine and thought the description sounded moderately interesting, but whomever wrote it really shortchanged this excellent novel. At it's core, this is a story about growing up. A young woman in college, growing into a committed relationship and into her life's passion. When her parents divorce her sophomore year in college, she has to stand on her own two feet financially, throw off the shackles of what her parents want for her life, say goodbye to her childhood home and neighborhood, and face a relationship no longer secure in the feeling that love and family is happily ever after.
Natalie, the mother, is a VERY believable archetypal "good" mother -- she gave up any career ambitions of her own (not unwillingly) to raise her two daughters, committed herself to marriage, family, home and suburban community and caring for her and her husband's aging mothers. But as her children age and leave home, and she finds that she and her husband share little on an adult level, she has to face the challenge of finding out who she is and what she wants. Without giving away the plot, I'll say she was thrust into facing the situation in a way she hadn't planned, and struggles mightily with the financial and emotional implications of the life she has left, with who she wants to become, and with her relationship with her daughters in the meantime.
The daughter must come to face with her mother becoming a whole person, and a sometimes flawed one, instead of just the mother she had always primarily been to her. She faces failures in her work, in her studies, in her relationships in her own mostly good judgment and character. And all this while her older sister succeeds and succeeds.
What is so incredible for me about this story is that my family has been through something similar and I can't describe to you how authentic all of these characters are. In certain ways (but not in others of course), I am the older sister in this story, a very side character, and can see my own mother and younger sister's struggles in this book. In some respects, even my father's. I will definitely be giving this book to my sister to read. In so many passages of the book I can hear my own mothers good intentions, and sometimes even her very words and tone. And I can see me and my sister's need to be both "good" daughters and adults at the same time... to learn to relate to our mother as adults who both give and receive love, support, disappointment and even irritation as a new, two-way street.
The book so poignantly reminds us that coming of age for children is so often a coming of middle-age for their parents as well. With daughters ages 6 and 2, this is a signficant lesson for me. This story brings the life of my own family into clearer relief. I suspect anyone who has faced the experience of parents divorcing when they are older will find a lot of truth in this story, even if their circumstances are not all the same -- mine certainly were not. But that's exactly what makes this book so excellent. It effectively transcends the details of the story itself and gets to the messy truth of mothers, daughters, fathers and the way our lives change in ways we both want and don't want.
The next thing I will be doing after I submit this review is to get my hands on the author's two previous novels. I can't recommedend this book highly enough.