fulfilling my 2021 goal to read one ARC each month i’d been so excited to get my hands on and then…never read
this is an excellent book-clubby debut about the secrets lurking beneath even the most close-knit, nearly claustrophobically-knit families; a multilayered family drama for fans of Ask Again, Yes, Celeste Ng, The Nest, or The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes <– TIL there is a SEQUEL to that wonderful, underread gem of a book, Below the Big Blue Sky, and i immediately PURCHASED it.
the brennans have always been a Big Deal family in their irish-catholic neighborhood-enclave in westchester. big house, big family, big success, and—evidently—big secrets: infidelity, financial difficulties, and only-daughter sunday’s BIG-big secret; the one that caused her sudden departure to los angeles five years earlier, leaving behind a bewildered family and a broken engagement to childhood sweetheart/honorary brennan kale.
when she crashes her car after a too-boozy night out, sunday’s brother denny convinces her to return home to recuperate from her injuries, and, with all the brennans back under one roof again, the dynamics burgeon predictably into a messy emotional stew of love, loyalty, protectiveness, grievances, unanswered questions, old feels, and DRAMA.
…Sunday knew a thing or two about that: the terrible fallout that came with hiding shameful secrets from the people who mattered most.
and there will be fallout.
the strength of the story isn’t in its originality, but in the ease of its storytelling, the lively characters, and the confident flow of the writing. structured as a series of rotating POVs between six of the characters (sunday, denny, mickey, kale, jackie, vivienne), we get a wide range of perspectives and a peep into the interior lives of individuals directly and indirectly involved in the various dramas unfolding.
i especially enjoyed the way chapter transitions are handled here: each character-POV chapter closes with a line of dialogue from a different character, which same line of dialogue is then used to open the next chapter, introducing the arrival of the next POV sorta like that fella announcing guests at royal balls and suchlike.
it’s a big warm story and it’s lovely to spend time with characters who feel complex and authentic, even though this book does that thing i hate specifically because of its inauthenticity—where ONE CONVERSATION is avoided for a flimsy reason, and everything falls apart as a result. i’m side-eying YOU and your dang letter-eating rug, Tess of the D’Urbervilles.
still, despite that tiresome contrivance, i loved the novel’s overall easy-breeziness and i’m looking forward to her next one with GUSTO!