RB Media. Mar. 2022. 6:33 hrs. ISBN 9781705028513. $19.99. F
Kauffman’s (The House on Fripp Island) exquisite fourth novel traces the lives of the seven adult Shaw children, all of whom were irrevocably changed by the tragic death of their mother, Marie. With gentleness and subtlety, narrator Elisabeth Rodgers explores the family members’ lives in a series of layered, non-sequential stories, moving from 1903 to 1959. Although Rodgers’ voice is measured and calm, she allows glimpses into the family’s shared trauma, from youngest daughter Bette, whose anger simmers when she is pigeonholed as a hysterically fragile housewife, to Jack, overwhelmed by alcoholism and rage when his 15-year-old sister Lane becomes pregnant. Throughout the novel, the children dance around the taboo subject of their mother’s death, each wondering if she really did mistake sleeping pills for “nervousness pills,” or if her “darkness” led her to suicide. The children’s individual stories are perfection in themselves, but taken together, they reveal the power of a collective voice that is greater than the sum of its parts.
VERDICT This achingly beautiful audiobook is an essential purchase. Share with fans of Anne Tyler, Christina Baker Kline, and Elizabeth Strout, and anyone interested in reflective, character-driven family sagas.
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