So. This is what bothered me throughout the entire novel. The familial relationship between Emily, a struggling writer suffering chronic writer's block, and Bee, an eccentric, secretive octogenarian, is described early in the book as such: Bee is Emily's mother's aunt. Except pages later Bee is described as an only child, the sole heir of her parents. As a genealogist, I worried over this the whole book through because how is Bee Emily's great-aunt if Bee is an only child? It is never spelled out or specified that the relationship is not blood related.
In the wake of a painful divorce, Emily retreats for the month of March to her beloved Bainbridge Island, home of her childhood summers, and her much loved aunt Bee for some much needed healing. What Emily finds instead is rooted in a complicated family history hiding a complicated family secret that Emily hopes will finally explain why her mother distanced herself from aunt Bee. Emily hopes it will also explain the emotional distance and disconnect herself and her mother, who has a natural and close relationship with Emily's younger sister. Much as Emily tries to pry the secret out of Bee, Bee's friend, Evelyn and even her mother, all three women remain tight lipped and refuse to share any details of the project that estranged Emily's mother from her own family.
Soon after her arrival on the island Emily discovers the 1943 journal of a local women whose story and dilemma mirrors Emily's circumstances; in the journal's pages Emily learns lessons from this woman's story that apply to her own life and journey toward healing. How does this woman's story inform Emily's own family's history and how is this woman connected to Emily's family?
The first half of the book goes by quickly until sometime after the midway point, when the mystery's thisclose to cracking wide open and spilling out all the sordid secrets buried in Emily's family history--secrets that finally illuminate the dynamics of her family. This is when the book really became a page turner--almost a thriller (I'm a sucker for a good family history mystery, okay?). It is also a story of how there is more than one side to a story and sometimes the story you've been told your entire life isn't the whole truth. Honestly, the story in the journal does a better job explaining why Emily's mother separated herself from the family than it does of explaining why Emily's mother has chosen to remain so distant from one of her daughters. Overall this is a good read, and I recommend you try it out the next time you visit the library.
--Reviewed by Ms. Angie