Review

The Man She Married by Cathy Lamb

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I love a Cathy Lamb book, and this latest one, is no exception. Occasionally  a reader might be turned off by the sometimes deliciously irreverent tone, but that’s just part of her unique writing voice. I do believe I could be read a page of her writing and name it as a Cathy Lamb book. Now you can’t recognise a writer’s voice with many books, but hers – unique.

Sometimes there is always a little touch of the tall story, I could see that with the story her Grandma Dixie tells of shooting a man, such fun.

Natalie is married to Zack, and they sure do love each other, but… Zack seems to be hiding something and when Natalie meets with an accident and has a bad brain injury slowly all is revealed. (It takes the whole book!) Natalie makes a slow recovery, there is no magic wand that cures her within a chapter. And will Zack and Natalie last with all that has been hidden?

I loved all the characters who filled this story, Natalie has such great friends in Justine and Chick – together since kindergarten they are the Moonshine and Milky Way Maverick girls – which sums up perfectly there fun loving, risk taking, sweet, compassionate selves.  Then there are many of the local people, plus the three in rehab who were wonderful too.

Lastly I could not leave without looking at Natalie’s mother, she sure is something else!  She deserted her child and husband when Natalie was seven and now she is on husband number five. I’m telling you, however she does have a surprise up her sleeve and neither Natalie or I saw it coming.

There is so much I could say, I laughed out loud, I shed tears, I delighted in the antics and hyperbole, and as the friendship, love and compassion shone through I just knew I am so grateful that Cathy Lamb is a writer.

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Published by  Kensington. 30th October 2018. An e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.  But… I did buy a paperback copy as well! If you haven’t read her, what are you waiting for!

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Review

When We Found Home by Susan Mallery

book coverPublished: HQN
Date: July 2018
Format: Hardback
Pages: 424
Genre:  Mainstream Fiction
Source: Own book

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Life is meant to be savored, but that’s not easy with no family, limited prospects and a past you’d rather not talk about. Still, Callie Smith doesn’t know how to feel when she discovers she has a brother and a sister–Malcolm, who grew up with affection, wealth and privilege, and Keira, a streetwise twelve-year-old. Callie doesn’t love being alone, but at least it’s safe. Despite her trepidation, she moves into the grand family home with her siblings and grandfather on the shores of Lake Washington, hoping just maybe this will be the start of a whole new life.

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I finished When We Found Home, I’d tried to make it stretch out, but well… I just loved reading it, and of course when I do that the pages tend to turn until there are no more!

We are introduced to a family new in the making and of a little odd make up. There is Malcolm – he’s been with his grandfather for a long time and now runs the family business. However he does still remember his early days when as a young boy he was brought in under the family umbrella. It takes many years later for the grandfather to discover that there are two more girls, fathered by his wayward son. Now he has them all under the same roof and he is happy.

So many favourite characters! Although we don’t get Keira’s point of view we certainly get to know her from the other characters, especially her sister and brother. She is whisked into an alien environment and its not until Callie turns up that she receives any understanding. Malcolm is good but he’s a guy who just has no idea! We also get to know Callie through Delaney – barista and with a main character viewpoint of her own. I loved and felt for Keira through their eyes.

Each character has their own wounds and growing challenges, for themselves and in relation to each other. There is some romance of course, however we are also exploring family, life choices, facing up to a one time mistake and moving on, being orphaned and turfed into the foster system. As well as that there is envy and jealousy, distrust and other nasties.

I loved this book and the best part is when I have forgotten it in a few years I can happily read it all over again! Oh how happy it is to have favourite authors who deliver the best so consistently.

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Review

Lighthouse Beach by Shelley Noble

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Published: William Morrow
Date: May 29th 2018
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 400
Genre: Mainstream Fiction
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss

Rating
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When Lillo Gray pulls up to Kennebunkport’s most exclusive hotel wearing a borrowed dress and driving a borrowed VW van, she knows she’s made a big mistake. She’s not even sure why Jessica Parker invited her to her posh wedding. They haven’t seen each other since they were unhappy fourteen-year-old girls at fat camp. And now they’re from two completely different worlds. There’s no way Lillo fits in the rarefied circles Jessica travels in.

Jess isn’t sure she’s ready to go through with this wedding, but she’s been too busy making everyone else happy to think about what she wants. But when she and her two closest friends, Allie and Diana, along with Lillo, discover her fiancé with his pants down in the hotel parking lot, she’s humiliated…and slightly relieved. In a rush to escape her crumbling life, Jess, Allie, and Diana pile into Lillo’s beat-up old van and head up the coast to Lighthouse Island. Once there, she hopes to figure out the next chapter in her life.

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Visit Lighthouse Beach and you’ll never be the same according to a notice at the entrance to the town. For a group of friends that certainly seems to ring true.  Lighthouse Beach is set in Maine in a small town that is sort of dying. No longer can the fishermen find the kind of work they once had.

Lilla has come back to live here, once her parents had a camp but they sold it to fund her education at medical school. So why is she wasting away on Lighthouse Beach? Mystery number one!  After being invited to Jessica’s disastrous wedding, she ends up with three visitors. I thought these three women would be rich snobs but that was really quite the opposite. They all fit into Lilla’s small cottage and adjust well to a week at the beach.

Jessica had come to Lilla’s parents’ camp so has known Lilla for a long time. She doesn’t seem to have much of a backbone when it comes to her terrible parents and her ghastly father. Jessica has had to weather rich, manipulative, judgemental parents. It’s left her with issues! Well to be honest many of the characters have issues.  Allie has lost her husband and has a five year old waiting for her at home. Diana has had two divorces. They are all intelligent, gifted and mostly successful women.

As well in this town there is Mac, growing old but still wanting to watch over the lighthouse. And Dr. Clancy who wants to watch over Mac.  Doc (Ned) rides into town every so often to provide medical care with Dr. Clancy. As well there is Ian the vet… yes you guessed it, he has issues too!

Much happens in a week, the background to Lilla and Ian especially is revealed, and the anguish and guilt they experience.  As I read on I see how Lilla and Jessica have both in a way experienced similar consequences to each other of other people’s behavior.

I loved the final chapters of the book as the action heated up and stands were made. Life issued a challenge and those challenges were taken up.

The story left me a little dissatisfied. I wanted to know more about Allie. Where to for Lillie and Jessica and Diana. Yes I could finish off their stories in the way I’d like for them in my imagination. However… surely there has to be another book in there somewhere from Shelley Noble about them.

Review

The High Tide Club by Mary Kay Andrews

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Published: St Martin’s Press
Date: 8th May 2018
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 480
Genre: Mainstream Fiction
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Rating
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When ninety-nine-year-old heiress Josephine Bettendorf Warrick summons Brooke Trappnell to Talisa Island, her 20,000 acre remote barrier island home, Brooke is puzzled. Everybody in the South has heard about the eccentric millionaire mistress of Talisa, but Brooke has never met her. Josephine’s cryptic note says she wants to discuss an important legal matter with Brooke, who is an attorney, but Brooke knows that Mrs. Warrick has long been a client of a prestigious Atlanta law firm.

Over a few meetings, the ailing Josephine spins a tale of old friendships, secrets, betrayal and a long-unsolved murder. She tells Brooke she is hiring her for two reasons: to protect her island and legacy from those who would despoil her land, and secondly, to help her make amends with the heirs of the long dead women who were her closest friends, the girls of The High Tide Club—so named because of their youthful skinny dipping escapades—Millie, Ruth and Varina. When Josephine dies with her secrets intact, Brooke is charged with contacting Josephine’s friends’ descendants and bringing them together on Talisa for a reunion of women who’ve actually never met.

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The High Tide Club was an entertaining read – lots happening, interesting and varied characters, a little bit of mystery and crime, and some life happenings that tugged at my heart.

I loved that it was a dual time story – usually I find those a little annoying, but this one is really done well and it all goes together seamlessly. It tells the story of Josephine, Milly, Ruth and Varina back in the day and how their lives intertwined and then they lost contact. Why? Josephine was a secretive lady but in my opinion she meant well. I liked her.

The present day ladies called together by Josephine are Lizzie – related to Ruth, Felicity related to Varina who is still alive, and Brooke a lawyer daughter of Marie who is a daughter of Milly as it turns out.  I liked how they all developed and reacted to the various events, taking their time often to adjust. The last moments in the book are sweet.

Brooke is really a main character, she has a beautiful son Henry and a missing father for Henry that she still sort of wishes was still around. But its been three years, he doesn’t know he is Henry’s father and Brooke has found herself being courted by a lawyer she used to work with and now needs his help.

It kept me reading, even during a difficult time, so you might say its just the right kind of read to take your mind off real life.  A story of friendship, love, sadness and loss, forgiveness and new hope.

Review

Sisters Like Us by Susan Mallery

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Published:Harlequin
Date: 23rd January 2018
Format: 3-ARC
Pages: 432
Genre: Mainstream Fiction
Source:Publisher via NetGalley

Rating 4.5 stars
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Divorce left Harper Szymanski with a name no one can spell, a house she can’t afford and a teenage daughter who’s pulling away. With her fledgling virtual-assistant business, she’s scrambling to maintain her overbearing mother’s ridiculous Susie Homemaker standards and still pay the bills, thanks to clients like Lucas, the annoying playboy cop who claims he hangs around for Harper’s fresh-baked cookies.

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Sisters Like Us is #4 in the Mischief Bay series, while part of a series it is very much a stand alone as well. I had been anticipating it with reading relish because so far I have really liked this series.

There are two sisters – Stacey who is about to become a Mom, she is about 6 months pregnant and as sure as can be that she will not make a good mother. Her mother – Bunny sent her the message in childhood that there was something wrong with her, and every since she has believed it.  She has a wonderful husband Kit and his insightful nephew Ashton who would most likely hold a different opinion entirely about Stacey.

Harper runs her own business and seems often to be overwhelmed by it, taking on too much and not standing up to one demanding client. Her mother – Bunny is always harping on to her about getting all the home things right. As the book opens she isn’t getting things quite right with her daughter Becca, who is struggling with some pertinent issues.

We also meet the police cop from the book A Million Little Things.  He uses Harper’s business to deal with some of the details of his life like paying his bills. I really liked him and his approach especially to Becca, although I felt one thing he did was really not quite in character, but everyone seemed to understand!

So this story deals with mothers and daughters – what makes a good mother? How can you juggle an important job and be a mother too? And the messages we receive as children from our parents can have a huge impact.  As well we see two sisters who do really support each other, teenage friendships explored, the need for a strong father in one’s life and what makes a great teenage romantic relationship.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book – just as I expected.

Review

The Promise Between Us by Barbara Claypole White

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Published: Lake Union Publishing
Date: 16th January 2018
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 384
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Rating of book
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Metal artist Katie Mack is living a lie. Nine years ago she ran away from her family in Raleigh, North Carolina, consumed by the irrational fear that she would harm Maisie, her newborn daughter. Over time she’s come to grips with the mental illness that nearly destroyed her, and now funnels her pain into her art. Despite longing for Maisie, Katie honors an agreement with the husband she left behind—to change her name and never return.

But when she and Maisie accidentally reunite, Katie can’t ignore the familiarity of her child’s compulsive behavior. Worse, Maisie worries obsessively about bad things happening to her pregnant stepmom. Katie has the power to help, but can she reconnect with the family she abandoned?

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The Promise Between Us was my first read for 2018 and really it was a perfect choice. What a mind blowing, emotional, informative story. It is one that will stay with me and one that I will want to reread again.

The story is told mainly from Katie’s point of view, the mother who walked out and left her child because she was terrified she would harm her. However we also have Cal – her ex husband, Jake his close mate, Lilah now Cal’s wife and Maisie the daughter of Cal and Katie. As well there is Delaney – Katie’s sister and Ben the guy who just might be someone important in Katie’s life. While the last two do not get a ‘viewpoint’ they have important roles and I love how Barbara Claypole White portrayed them

The other ‘main character’ in the story is OCD, Katie lives with it and now after accidentally meeting Maisie, she fears Maisie has it too. As a reader I learned so much about OCD through the book and how important treatment is for it and how courageous one has to be to live fully and not let the OCD take over your life. And so terrible things happen in this story, but always there is courage and hope and that stood out right the way through.

As it turns out Katie and Maisie are not the only ones suffering from anxiety – and that was a heart breaking aspect as well to this story – I am not going to say who or how as I do not want to spoil the story if you read it. However it is handled gently and in a positive manner. I loved the emphasis on truth and honesty, and kudos to Lilah, what a wonderful young woman – so wise.

At the beginning of the book Jake seems to be a frivolous, happy go lucky man, but in actual fact he has hidden depths and I can see as the future evolves he and Katie will work together on some project close to their hearts.

A favorite quote from the book:

” Perfection stops you from enjoying the wonder of what is. It snares you with unrealistic expectations. Tells you constantly things can only be a certain way, and that’s how you fall into the trap”

This was a wonderful story to read, just as a story – but as well it helped me see into the mind and heart of others and invited me as a person to expand my heart and mind to believe all over again that darkness does not win; compassion, love and hope are far stronger.

Review

Now That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins

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Published: HQN Books
Date: 26th December 2017
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 416
Genre: Mainstream Fiction
Source:Publisher via NetGalley

Rating 4.5 stars
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One step forward. Two steps back. The Tufts scholarship that put Nora Stuart on the path to becoming a Boston medical specialist was a step forward. Being hit by a car and then overhearing her boyfriend hit on another doctor when she thought she was dying? Two major steps back.

Injured in more ways than one, Nora feels her carefully built life cracking at the edges. There’s only one place to land: home. But the tiny Maine community she left fifteen years ago doesn’t necessarily want her. At every turn, someone holds the prodigal daughter of Scupper Island responsible for small-town drama and big-time disappointments.

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It is a delicious feeling to open up a book by Kristan Higgins and indeed it was so for this latest book as well. It was funny and heart warming, poignant and at times caught me right in the heart.

This is the story of Nora, before and after. As a young teen on Scupper Island she has much to contend with. She has the heart ache of her Dad walking out on their family and to compensate she over eats which leads to further insults. Her mother is tough but not particularly the warm huggable kind. Nora is bright though and she has the chance of winning a big scholarship, although she has big competition from an equally intelligent student. But intelligence is not the only thing that counts.

Nora does make it to being a very successful doctor, however there is a Big Bad Event that has caused her a lot of trauma, and there are other aspects of her life that just aren’t working out.

When she returns to Scupper Island she has her mother to deal with, her niece Poe who is a sullen ‘don’t look at me’ kind of teen, and her nemesis Luke Fletcher. However Nora is not easily deterred and the story rollicks along as she faces into all the challenges before her. Not least of all is winning over her niece Poe and finding a partner for her mother.

Of course Nora is accompanied by her beloved dog Boomer and they have a fantastic relationship. However not so with her mother’s pet bird Tweety. Oh my how I was horrified and …. yes laughed at the interactions there.

Nora makes significant changes in her life, she meets up again with Sully Fletcher and there just might be sparks there. As well he has a daughter Audrey, someone Nora is able to reach out to.

I loved picking up this book to read any chance I had, I loved the island, the people and scenery on Scupper. Kristan Higgins has satisfied my reading heart again.

Review

The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain

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Published: St Martin’s Press
Date: 3rd October 2017
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 384
Genre:Mainstream Fiction
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Rating
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In 1944, twenty-three-year-old Tess DeMello abruptly ends her engagement to the love of her life when she marries a mysterious stranger and moves to Hickory, North Carolina, a small town struggling with racial tension and the hardships imposed by World War II. Tess’s new husband, Henry Kraft, is a secretive man who often stays out all night, hides money from his new wife, and shows no interest in making love. Tess quickly realizes she’s trapped in a strange and loveless marriage with no way out.

The people of Hickory love and respect Henry and see Tess as an outsider, treating her with suspicion and disdain, especially after one of the town’s prominent citizens dies in a terrible accident and Tess is blamed. Tess suspects people are talking about her, plotting behind her back, and following her as she walks around town. What does everyone know about Henry that she does not? Feeling alone and adrift, Tess turns to the one person who seems to understand her, a local medium who gives her hope but seems to know more than he’s letting on.

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What can I say! Diane Chamberlain has again written another very engaging story with The Stolen Marriage. I was soon transported off into story land and really enjoyed the read.

Tess is a beautifully compassionate heroine who finds her self in a spot of bother. We are talking back in the 1940’s when to become pregnant outside marriage was something to be hidden. When she tells the man who was responsible alongside herself he does the decent thing and offers marriage to which she agrees. And leaves behind the love of her life, Vincent.

Does she really know her husband Henry (Hank)? Lucy his sister would say no. And she doesn’t. But as time goes by she learns more and finally learns the truth. I saw part of it coming, but oh no, I did not see the totality of it, so the final reveals were full of thrills.

The polio epidemic was fascinating as I am old enough (sigh) to remember those fearful times, and can remember being made to rest as a young child after lunch to stay in good health. Then of course came the wonderful medicine we swallowed and were given immunity. I can also remember devouring the book Over My Dead Body by June Opie as a young teen, so this aspect of the story really engaged me.

The minor characters added to the flavour of the book, the township of Hickory in North Carolina, the issues of racism, and the part of Reverend Sam all added the the mix to make this book such a wonderful story. I liked the growth of Tess and applauded every stand she took to choose her own life. I liked Vincent and his approach and yes really liked Henry too.

Diane Chamberlain has again spun an engaging tale that had me springing up off my chair and shouting “Yes”! at one point.

Review

When We Were Worthy by Mary Beth Whalen

Book coverPublished:Lake Union
Date:12th September 2017
Format:e-ARC
Pages:278
Genre:Mainstream Fiction
Source:Publisher via NetGalley

Rating of book
Goodreads callout

When the sound of sirens cuts through a cool fall night, the small town of Worthy, Georgia, hurtles from triumph to tragedy. Just hours before, they’d watched the Wildcats score a winning touchdown. Now, they’re faced with the deaths of three cheerleaders—their promising lives cut short in a fatal crash. And the boy in the other car—the only one to survive—is believed to be at fault. As rumors begin to fly and accusations spin, allegiances form and long-kept secrets emerge.

At the center of the whirlwind are four women, each grappling with loss, regret, shame, and lies: Marglyn, a grieving mother; Darcy, whose son had been behind the wheel; Ava, a substitute teacher with a scandalous secret; and Leah, a cheerleader who should have been in the car with her friends, but wasn’t. If the truth comes out, will it bring redemption—or will it be their downfall?

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When We Were Worthy by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen was a really good, thought provoking story. It is set in the small town of Worthy, where the local high school football players are kings – and full of themselves. Alongside them are the cheerleaders and it is these girls who form the basis of the book.

The story is told mainly from the alternating points of view of…

  • Marglyn – mother of Mary Claire one of the cheerleaders. We first meet her when she has just had an argument with her daughter and made a choice that displeases her daughter. Through this relationship the story explores the mother/daughter relationship and what is good parenthood and all the emotions that go with that.Darcy – mother of Graham, who is about fifteen years of age. She is split from her husband Tommy who went off with someone else. Darcy married young and is now only thirty-six. She is really annoyed when Tommy buys Graham a new car – sure to make him esteemed among his peers.
  • Leah – a young sophomore cheerleader and friend of Mary Claire, Keary and Byrnne. On the night of a fatal accident she is split from her friends for a reason and so misses a fatal accident. She has a secret and we watch her make a journey of courage, trust and truth as the story reveals itself.
  • Finally Ava, new to Worthy, with a husband who suddenly seems to have deserted her. She has two young children and is a sub teacher at the high school. As she is trapped into something not of her making I felt for her as those she should have been able to count on for support abandoned her.

This story fully engaged me, I didn’t mind going from one character point of view to another. It was realistic and showed the foibles and weaknesses – even evil of human nature, people’s blindness – sometimes by choice, to what goes on around them. It also explores parenthood, friendships, the difficulties of fitting in and being accepted. Most of all it shows how trust, hope, truth and love are so important and are what really counts.

Review

The Summer That Made Us by Robyn Carr

Book coverPublished:Harlequin – MIRA
Date: 5th September 2017
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 336
Genre: Mainstream Fiction
Source: Publisher and Little Bird Publicity

Rating
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For the Hempsteads, two sisters who married two brothers and had three daughters each, summers were idyllic. The women would escape the city the moment school was out to gather at the family house on Lake Waseka. The lake was a magical place, a haven where they were happy and carefree. All of their problems drifted away as the days passed in sun-dappled contentment. Until the summer that changed everything.

This is now…  Torn apart, none of the Hempstead women speak of what happened that summer, and relationships between them are uneasy at best to hurtful at worst. But in the face of new challenges, one woman is determined to draw her family together again, and the only way that can happen is to return to the lake and face the truth.

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As always Robyn Carr has written a well crafted story that fully engaged me all through the book The Summer That Made Us. It has many threads to it, many issues and themes that ebb and flow as the story unfolds.

This is a story about relationships mostly – that of sisters and cousins, plus some of the people that surround them. As it starts out it is rather obvious that you could put a capital D on dysfunctional for many but not all of the family members.

There is Lou and Jo, two sisters – once such good friends, now estranged. Two families who grew up close to each other, spending time as children at a lake house in Minnesota. Two families of thre girls each. However one summer everything turned to ruin and they never went back…

Until Meg wants to go back to that house. She is dealing with cancer, she has had her last ditch treatment and it is time to see will it work… or not. Charlie her sister wants to make that happen for her and does so. As Charlie begins her renovations there, her cousin Krista turns up, just out of prison. We are also introduced to Hope, Krista’s sister and all is not right in the state of Denmark for sure in her life.

We see things from all their points of view which does help me the reader be sympathetic towards them and to wish the best for them. I am not always engaged by so many characters in one book with issues and things to deal with. But the fact that they are all related and have been affected by the same family dynamics and tragedy, pulled me in. It perhaps lost a little though in the focus being on so many, not much, just a tad, it left me feeling a little distant from the full emotion of the characters.

Each woman grapples with her own life, moving towards resolution, new hope, forgiveness and healing in various forms as the story is retold and understood. Another well told story from Robyn Carr.