This was one of those books that dealt with some very serious issues within a framework of dry wit and comedy. The darker themes of Alzheimer's, murder, racism, and long-standing family tensions was offset by the lightest touches and strokes of humor that kept the book from being overly somber and weighed down by sorrow. There were sections to smile over, and surprisingly, this didn’t take away from the gravity of the book’s messages or render the characters as stereotypes or caricatures. It was a fine balance and Rutledge manages to keep firm hold of her story and characters in the great dance of tragedy and mirth that unfolds before her readers.
Faith is obviously deteriorating, and although she’s been a recluse for many years, when the mansion doors swing wide to disgorge Tiffany lamps that she’s willing to part with for a dollar, obviously the town takes notice. But few people are actually concerned for Faith Bass Darling. Most of the town’s residents seem bent on taking the befuddled woman’s possessions and leaving her wandering vacantly over her lawn. But there’s more to Faith, because underneath her very obvious confusion, memories and reflections are rising to the surface, things she hasn’t thought of in so long that they’ve been all but forgotten. As the drive to sell off her possessions becomes stronger, others begin to arrive and discover what’s really going on, much to their horror.
Claudia Jean arrives in town prepared to ask for the one thing that her mother will never part with, the thing she needs to secure her dreams; but what she finds on Faith’s lawn shakes and jangles her into a nearly incoherent state herself. Claudia is the master at running away, and all she wants to do now is run, but there’s too much here to leave behind and the healing that has to take place between her and her mother is like an implacable train she doesn’t want to board. With the help of a man who should have every reason in the world to hate the Darlings, and an old friend who wants to see Claudia and her mother rightly compensated for their family relics, Claudia Jean, along with her mother, wades into the mire of remembering what drove her away and the secrets buried just under the surface.
This novel asks its readers to ponder some heavy questions. How deeply are our possessions tied with our sense of self, and what happens if forgiveness comes too late? Where does the soul reside, and is it possible to die without really being dead? These questions are placed skillfully inside a story that is rich with unique and enigmatic characters that are as finely tuned to each other’s emotions as can be, but who can sometimes miss the things that are right under their noses.
This was a book that I cherished but that also tore my heart into tiny little pieces. It’s an odd thing to be smiling through eyes bleary with tears, but this was what often happened while I was reading this book. If you’re a reader with a love of finely honed literary novels, this is the book I would recommend to you. It is strikingly forceful yet oddly gentle, and I recommend it highly.
This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.