I really enjoyed this novel, the bond between the sisters who were both strong characters was well told. As a Brit with a son living in CA I'm surprised that I hadn't heard about the secession movement, I thought that the civil war had brought all the states together.
I bought this and could hardly wait to read it, as I would put No One You Know and The Year of Fog in my top ten all time books. Although it is as always an interesting read, it doesn't match up to those two. There's a lot of chopping and changing between present day, a story a few years ago and a childhood history, and while I could follow it all and it added some tension I also found it quite frustrating as I got into one story and then turned a page and it all stopped again. I also didn't think that the underlying plot about the election brought an awful lot to the story. It's still worth reading, but I guess I felt a little disappointed that it didn't quite match up to my expectations - maybe I'll enjoy it more when I re-read it.
On the day in which California is voting whether or not to continue as a state or break away as an independent country Doctor Julie Walker is called to the Veteran's Hospital where she works to deliver her sister's baby. The novel starts as she arrives and several staff members are taken hostage by an ex-patient trapping the two women. This is an exciting start and the author then tells her story in three threads - Julie's past history, especially with her sister and her husband; the journey to the hospital that morning after the telephone call from her sister; and the actual story of the seige and the demands of the hostage taker. There are several overarching stories too - the vote for independence and some associated civil disorder, and the radio show which Julie's ex-husband Tom is hosting during the day.
The novel structure sounds confusing but it is a credit to the author that it all flows well and that I was never confused about what was happening and to what part of the timeline any episode belonged. The plotting is very clever in this book and it is a delight to see all the events come together and also to see the characters grow and change. The only complaint I would have is that there was slightly too much delay in telling us what had happened to Ethan although the answer when it came was very well presented.
The message of this book is not to let the past define the present and so the author concentrates on relationships and key moments in these which have affected the lives of the main characters. It's not a preachy book but all the characters are presented as very human. The most likeable character is Tom, Julie's husband, although he only appears in flashbacks and on the radio. Julie herself is a complicated person and we see why she has deliberately constrained her life and doesn't take risks.
I was gripped by this book all the way through as it is a very well told story. The author is very realistic about life but she is also hopeful about the future. An entertaining and enjoyable story.
It was okay......but I found it hard to finish. I'm happy I did. A nice ending. I had to push myself through the book when the writing waffled on a bit. The short chapters were helpful, as some parts grabbed my attention but other parts I found boring, so I struggled onwards wanting to finish it.