Sylvia Sandon always swore she wouldn't become her mother. But one August morning, she finds herself walking the same prodigal path as the fervently religious yet faithless Elaine, into an affair she feels powerless to resist. Against the backdrop of California brushfires and fundamentalist mores in the '70s, 12-year old Sylvie had agreed to hold a secret that would devour her family's dream of happiness. Now, 30 years later, in chosen exile from her family of origin, Sylvie attempts to build a better life in small town New England. Nonetheless, she finds herself caught in the coils of history: she confronts the embers of her own dying marriage, the all-consuming needs of a teen and a toddler, and her faltering artistic career... Then Tai Rosen, the father of her most difficult student, ignites an unexpected passion and a familiar betrayal that could illuminate the past, even as it threatens everything dear...
Beautifully written, I had a hard time believing this was a debut novel. The talent for telling a story is surly there; Ms. Ostermiller definitely has a future in writing. Mothers and daughters, wives and husbands, lovers and religion coat the pages of this meaty summer story told completely through Sylvia’s perspective. I thought the writing here was fantastic as I read from Sylvia the child and Sylvia the adult floating between present day and past day 1975. For me although this was the same character telling the tale, it was so dimensional that even though I could never connect with adult Sylvia, I connected with young Sylvia.
Sylvia is broken as a child and later that brokenness resurfaces in her own marriage as an adult. For years she watched her mother have an affair with Mr. Robert, she witnessed the love shared between them effect and change her mother, so much so that while dad was away they would go on trips and act like a pretend family. How messed up is that for a kid to deal with? Sylvia is torn between her love for Mr. Robert and her love for her father. Her father makes loving Mr. Robert much easier considering he’s a shameless cad who singles out ninety percent of his anger at her. Getting slapped in the face, knocked down, pushed and sworn at are all weekly occurrences.
I understood young Sylvia’s brokenness and I also related to her extreme immaturity at that age, her eager attachment and following along, even in some cases that lead to others taking extreme advantage of her. On the other hand, I had a very hard time connecting with Sylvia the adult due to the fact I thought she was shellfish and extremely stupid. Taking into account what her childhood was like why would she deliberately risk that with her own children? I wanted to smack her silly with all the wishy -washy back and forth should I or shouldn’t I have an affair on my husband….Um hello Sylvie, remember back when your older sister went wild and you were playing finger games with the girl down the street? Talk about a numb-skull, it felt as if Sylvia needed to have the affair just to see what it was like on the other side. That was the real clincher for me not connecting to her, Sylvia had already traveled this road as a young teen and now here she is opening herself to journey that the same road already taken- even her mother has sense to ask “Is he worth the risk”?
I wouldn’t say I loved or disliked this. I loved the emotion it provoked, the questions it stirred and the way it was written. Normally a cheating spouse isn’t my go to gal for advice on marriage but one thing Sylvia showed me while reading this , was regardless of one’s haggard past, choices are your own and your own to keep.
Graphic sexuality, language, adultery, abuse- including child abuse, drugs and violence. Defiantly aimed to the adult reader.
4/5- Family Drama- infidelity Thank you to Harlequin for Review Galley Copy