The time is 1961. A family is celebrating the second birthday of their youngest child. Laurel is the eldest of the five children. She is hiding from everyone, daydreaming in her tree house, when suddenly, she witnesses a terrible act of violence involving her mother.
The story then shoots forward into the future, to 2011, 50 years hence. Laurel has arrived back in her home town to visit with her ailing mother, Dorothy.
As Laurel’s mother becomes more and more frail, Laurel becomes preoccupied with investigating the tragic incident she witnessed from the tree house, as a teenager. She wants to discover the truth about why it happened because she believes that there is a hidden secret behind the incident. As she investigates her mother’s past, it is sometimes hard to tell if Laurel is the one actually discovering the hidden secrets or if they are simply being revealed to the reader, alone, by another character, almost as if the reader is a voyeur, separate and apart from Laurel. Because of this, as the story moves back and forth in time, basically telling the story of three major characters, Dorothy, Vivien and Jimmy, it can feel a bit disorienting.
There is a lot of misdirection as the secrets are exposed, concerning the character’s purposes and personalities. This often makes it hard to anticipate what is going to happen next. While this arouses the reader’s curiosity, it also sometimes becomes a little tedious, and the reader might feel inclined to put the book down to take a break from it. However, just when you think you might give up, there is a new twist or turn introduced which excites your interest even more and rapidly draws you back to the pages.
The past is revealed, bit by bit, but sometimes the eureka moments meander through time, in what seems to be a haphazard way, but in the end they all fall into place. The author has written a wonderful story about the trials of family, love and friendship coupled with a murder mystery all rolled into one.
Be forewarned! The ending is completely unexpected and is a total surprise; so don’t peek. It will ruin your experience completely if you do. Nothing and no one is as they seem. Wait for the author to reveal it all on the road she plots for you to travel. You won’t be disappointed.
My biggest criticism of this book is one I have for many others, of late. The age of computers has made it almost too easy for authors to produce novels. For some reason, this has also inspired the creation of tomes. They seem to be twice as long, often, as they need to be, and therefore, they sometimes seem too wordy and too bogged down in unnecessary detail.