By: Annie Barrows
Published: June 9, 2015
Publisher: The Dial Press
Annie Barrows is the well-loved author of the children's IVY & BEAN series. She also received rave reviews after writing one of my all-time-favorite books, THE GUERNSEY AND LITERARY POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY. That made me extremely excited for her newest book. Unfortunately, it didn't interest me as much as I had hoped.
Layla Beck is the spoiled daughter of a US Senator. When the Senator has had enough of his daughter's spending and ungracious attitude, he cuts her off. During the hot summer of 1938, he gets his brother to give her a job with the Federal Writers' Project in the small town of Macedonia, West Virginia. Layla, who hasn't written more than a letter to her friends, is charged with interviewing and writing the stories about the history of the Macedonia. Little does she know that the family she has moved in with has their own secrets to add to the town's history. The Romeyn family is wary of Layla, especially twelve-year-old Willa. She is desperate for her father's attention and on the rare occasion when Felix is actually home, he seems to give all his attention to Layla. Willa becomes determined to find out what her father is up to on his long absences and Layla is determined to find out the secrets of the town. The two end up colliding on the same story and only one of them knows the real truth.
Barrows story ebbs and flows for me. What I loved about Barrows previous novel was the epistolary style of writing and was hoping for that again. There were several letters in the book, but it wasn't enough to make it a main part of story. Since the story is told from Willa's point of view, I found it hard at times to follow along. At over five hundred pages, I feel like the story has to move along at a quick pace to keep me reading and this one did not. I put it down several times and came back to it after reading something else. If the middle of the book would have been as interesting as the first and last third, I would have had it finished in no time.
Barrows created some pretty uniquely interesting characters including mysterious Felix, Willa's sister, Bird, their aunt Jottie who has raised them while giving up her dreams to do so, and the funny Aunts, Mae and Minerva. But with so many characters and various story lines, it was hard to focus and the secrets dragged out too long in the novel. While charming and historically compelling, it just didn't invest me into the characters or their stories.
|Annie Barrows - source -|
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