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Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale

So many things to say about this book, you guys.  So. Many. Things.  I was conflicted while I was reading this book because on the one hand if some soap opera drama went down, this review was going to be one long rant.  On the other hand if nothing happened, then I would have been disappointed because I felt like I was waiting for the other shoe to drop in this novel from the second chapter.   And if nothing ever dropped, I would have felt cheated.

I'm just going to warn you now.  I may sound like an unhinged bookworm in this review because of the drama that goes down in this book.  If you watch a lot of soap operas or telenovelas or if you read a lot and have an overactive imagination, then many of the plot developments will be predictable but no less polarizing.  The epilogue, you guys, is a big, fat, heartbreaking cliffhanger.

Everything We Keep is Kerry Lonsdale's debut novel.  It's been out a while, and I think Lonsdale may have already released her second novel by now.  For the first chapter or so I was on the fence about whether I'd read or ditch, then the scene between creepy cousin Phil, controlling aunt Claire (James's mother and Aimee's future mother-in-law), and Aimee (and in which Phil and Claire display some questionable body language towards each other) went down.  And I was all in because what sketchiness went down between Aimee and creepy cousin Phil and was it as sinister as the tense undertone of the scene implies?

The book opens on what would have been Aimee's wedding day had her fiance, James, not disappeared and then washed up dead while on a shady Mexican business trip two months prior.  Instead of getting married in the church they booked, they're holding a funeral for James because his mother, Claire, insisted on holding her son's funeral on his wedding day 'because the church was already reserved and friends and family were coming in for the wedding anyway.'  Who even does that?  So there's your first clue about what we're dealing with in this book.

Following the funeral Aimee is ambushed by a self-proclaimed psychic, Lacy, who specializes in missing persons.  And Lacy claims that James is alive.  Aimee rebuffs the pushy, insensitive Lacy.  Who pops in on a funeral to tell the dead man's grief stricken fiance that he may not be dead after all?  Someone with questionable judgment, that's who.  

Aimee is in the midst of struggling with her grief when she's hit with even more life changes that are out of her control.  It turns out that her parents have sold their debt ridden Irish pub out from under her and left her without a job.  Two things bothered me about this development.  The first was that her parents hid the business's financial troubles from Aimee, who they knew was interested in taking it over when they retired, and the second was the timing of the sale which they felt they had to hide from Aimee due to its proximity to the disappearance of and subsequent funeral for James.  Why do people put off telling their daughter the family business is down a hole it can't climb out of and oh, by the way, they sold it?  Because they have questionable judgment, that's why.

Over the weeks and months that follow even as Aimee opens her own cafe and meets a handsome photographer named Ian with whom she has an undeniable connection, Aimee questions the circumstances of James's disappearance and death.  Lacy's declaration that the dead man is indeed not dead but is in fact alive has become like an ear worm in Aimee's brain and sewn doubt about James motives, purpose, and destination in Mexico.  Only two years (!!) pass before Aimee buckles down and determines to get to the bottom of the shady, murky circumstances surrounding James, his dysfunctional family, and the presumably dead man's potential resurrection.  When her cafe is finally hitting its stride, Aimee thinks it's a good idea to finally find out whether James is really alive or dead and goes to Mexico to find out which is where some next level, extra messy soap opera drama goes down.  

What really happened to James?  How is his brother Thomas involved?  And how is this creepy cousin Phil's fault (because I know this is all tied back to him one way or another)?

Rants I had (You know I had more).

A lot of people in this book display mega questionable judgment.

The brutality of James's disappearance is second only to the cruelty of its cover up.  Like Thomas is in a big mess, and the best way he can see out of it in order to protect his brother and that brother's fiance is to fake that brother's death for the whole world, including Aimee, their mother, and the whole family, to see.  Thomas's half assed, messy, ill-conceived 'solution' victimizes people on both sides.  James's friends and family mourn his loss, and when James remembers who he is (because you know he will remember who he is eventually), the family he's made (which includes children!) will be devastated because they will lose their father.  There is no upside to this mess, and I don't like it.  It is cruel.  It is tragic.  And there was a better way to do this.

The Donatos, James's and Thomas's family, are straight out of a twisted telenovela.  While I could smell the family secret coming from a mile away, and it was hinted and foreshadowed earlier in the book, it was still one hell of a soap opera twist.  And the manipulation and buy offs that Thomas engages in to ensure his terrible solution remains in place is pretty epic too. 

This book is one steaming pile of melodramatic, next level, messy, soap opera drama.  And I couldn't put it down.  But I'm glad it's over.  I still can't even wrap my mind around what down in this book.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie


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