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Once Upon A Day by Lisa Tucker

This is apparently the second novel by Lisa Tucker that I've read.  This realization only dawned on me when I was at least halfway through the book.  Previously I've read and reviewed The Promised World which was released after Once Upon A Day.  Both novels share similar themes of a terribly dysfunctional family with tragic secrets long buried in the past that are the key to resolving the issues the families face in the present.  This was a thoroughly absorbing book and turned out to be quite the page turner.  However, in a way I feel as if the ending left me hanging just a bit.

Dorothea and her brother Jimmy were raised in total isolation and seclusion from the modern day world, society and people by their father who is controlling and overprotective in the extreme.  One could argue that his brand of overprotective borders on abuse or neglect as it is left both children extremely ill prepared to deal with and relate to the outside world.  Then Jimmy moves to the city and when their father sickens and Jimmy's letters cease, Dorothea follows her brother to the big city to find him and bring him home to their father.  Dorothea's mission is complicated thousand fold by the facts that she has never had any contact with the outside world and her knowledge of history, society and technology stops at the 1950's thanks to the way she was raised and educated by her father.

Upon her arrival in the city, happenstance puts her in Stephen Spaulding's cab.  Stephen himself has ceased living and has cut off most contact with friends and family in the wake of the crushing grief and trauma from an unspeakable tragedy two years ago.  A former physician, he reluctantly takes Dorothea under his wing and the two of them trail Jimmy to several of his former addresses before he is finally found in the county hospital psychiatric ward after suffering a nervous breakdown that resulted in gruesome self-mutilation.  The reality of Jimmy's situation and condition is heartbreaking in so many ways because it is due to both his upbringing and their father's refusal to divulge any details about the family's past.  It is this past and the answers it holds that are the key to healing Jimmy.

There are two suspenseful stories told in this book.  There is the story of the tragedy that resulted in the disintegration of Dorothea's and Jimmy's family over a period of several years, and there is also the story of the present as Dorothea and Jimmy try piece together their past as everyone rumbles toward a shocking revelation regarding the secrets and lies their father told them.  Beautifully written, at turns humorous and gut wrenching, this book is hard to put down until the last page.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie


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