06 November 2016

The Taste of Air

Synopsis from Goodreads: A simple phone call disrupts Nell Williams’s well-ordered life. Her mother, Mary, is in a hospital in Vermont. But her mother is supposed to be safely tucked away in an assisted-living facility in Massachusetts, so Nell can’t fathom why she would be so far from home.

After notifying her sister, Bridget, Nell hops on a plane and rushes to her mother’s side. There, she discovers that her mother has been living a second life. Mary has another home and a set of complex relationships with people her daughters have never met.

When Nell and Bridget delve deeper into their mother’s lakeside hideaway, they uncover a vault of family secrets and the gateway to change for all three women.

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, Red Adept Publishing, LLC, 2016

How acquired: Received from the author

My thoughts:  When the author contacted me and offered this book to me, I was a little leery, as two of the last three books sent to me by authors I'd ended up DNFing because I just did not enjoy them and couldn't get into them. But I crossed my fingers and accepted, and I am so glad I did.

The narrative, all in third person POV, bounces around between adult sisters Nell and Bridget in the present, and their mother, Mary, at different times in her life. Nell receives a phone call that her mother is ill and is hospitalized in a small town in Vermont. But her mother lives in Massachusetts, in a senior community where staff are supposed to check on her from time to time. So why was she in Vermont?

When Nell arrives in Vermont, she learns that her mother owned a lakeside cottage, still has her car but with Vermont tags on it now, has a dog, and has neighbors who appear to be very close friends. While Nell is visiting her mother's hospital bedside and meeting her mom's friends, her older sister Bridget is making plans to divorce her husband while trying to get a flight to Vermont.

The story has a very coming-of-age feel to it, despite the fact that Nell and Bridget are in their 40's. As the sisters begin unraveling their mother's secrets, they also begin coming to some realizations about their own lives. Meanwhile, the chapters that focus on Mary give us, the reader, some insight into her character, and we learn things about her past that the sisters don't know or have not yet discovered. It was an interesting balance, as it sometimes put us a step ahead of Nell and Bridget.

The only sour spot for me was in Bridget's quest to find the daughter she gave up for adoption when she was a teenager. 
Many years later,” Bridget said quietly, “I found out I would probably never have any more children. It was the punishment I earned for giving her up.”

I work in the adoption field, and seeing adoption portrayed negatively, well, when I read lines like that I just cringe. I have to remind myself that it was different times than now. I'm still not sure if I like the way that subplot played out in the end or not. It isn't feasible that an adoption could happen that way today, at least not with the agency I'm with, but I guess thirty years ago it could have.

When Nell and Bridget finally figure out the biggest secret, which the reader will have already learned from reading Mary's chapters (and when I was pretty sure I had it figured out I got kind of an icky feeling which I can't explain here without giving away too much plot) it seemed to suddenly come to them a little quickly, but I was sure glad they finally knew the complete truth. You grow up thinking you know your mother, and sometimes you forget that she had a childhood and a life before you came along. It made me wonder not only about my own mother, but also wonder what my daughters would think about my life if, for instance, they came across my old diaries and learned things about me that I've never told them. Things I probably won't ever tell them, not necessarily because they're bad things, but just because they're in my past.

Overall, I very much enjoyed the book and was happy with the way everything wrapped up. A quite engaging story. 

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