By: Manuela Soares
A couple of years ago, I read the debut novel The Girl in the Letter by Emily Gunnis and fell in love with the heart-wrenching story and Emily’s writing. So, when she began talking about her second novel on social media, I was thrilled and counting down the days until it’s release. Thanks to NetGalley, I was able to get my hands on an e-book copy of it, and I was not disappointed; once again, Gunnis crafted a wonderful story that is intriguing and captivating.
Switching through points of view and time, this is a complex, endearing, heart-wrenching, and extremely well-researched novel. Flipping between post-WWII, 1960, and 2014, it follows a line of women who are doing their best in their given situations and men who have their own issues and are seemingly trying to help but tend to fumble it more often than not. The time frame switches had me confused a bit at first, but once I got a handle on that, it wasn’t too bad. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and found the plot twists and turns to be fantastic and well thought out.
Given some of the topics covered, I was cautiously optimistic as I went along, but like The Girl in the Letter, the sheer amount of research that had to have gone into this book was shown through her writing. Not only did Emily tackle the intricacies of familial relationships in a realistic manner, she also tackled mental health issues (specifically postpartum psychosis and the after-effects of war on men; both issues that I have rarely seen written about in detail outside of a non-fiction book) realistically and did so in a way that wasn’t disrespectful or only there to be used as an explanation of why characters do things. Additionally, while I didn’t like all the characters, as more and more about them was revealed, I found them to be well written and thought out and portrayed in a realistically flawed manner that humans are.
If you couldn’t tell, realistic is a word that I feel describes the themes and writing in this book. There was one scene where realism doesn’t quite apply, but other than that I would say it does. The relationships and mirrored commonalities between the women especially were both interesting and gutting to read. I had no knowledge about post-partum psychosis prior to this story, and it’s had me looking it up and reading about just what occurs to women who suffer from it. Once again, Emily wrote a story that hits on topics not normally discussed and had me gripped to the last page. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. I love how she mixes history and truth with fiction and brings to life stories that are enrapturing and educational.
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