Publish Date : 6/19/18
Author: Susan Crandall
Rating : ⭐⭐⭐⭐
First things first, I wrote this review, scheduled it to be posted, came back to the site, and the entire review which was very detailed was *gasp*… GONE. I don’t know if I can live up to my first review so I’m sorry for what I miss. What’s even more annoying is that I just finished my second review and remembered, I posted my first one on Goodreads and could have copied and pasted it! LOL. I’m giving up and just posting my new one below. I didn’t just do all this work for nothin’!
Next, I just want to inform anyone who reads this blog, I’m trying to get a bit ahead of my reading and reviews because I leave for vacation in a couple weeks out of the country. I won’t have internet because I really just want to disconnect for a bit from everything so I am trying to write and save some things to be scheduled to be posted while I am away. I most likely will be bringing some physical copies of books laying around so some not so new book book reviews may be coming up. When I get back from vacation, I will be home for two weeks and then again leave the country so ditto for that week as well. So, excuse me if my posts stop popping up immediately when I finish the book like usual for me. I’m saving some to have some data for you while I’m away!
Last, a big thanks to Netgalley, Susan Crandall, and Gallery Books Publishing for sending me a copy of the book to review. I picked this book up prior to its publication date but it’s out now and you can go purchase it! All thoughts on this book are my own.
Summary from Goodreads:
From the national bestselling author of Whistling Past the Graveyard comes a moving coming-of-age tale set in the tumultuous sixties that harkens to both Ordinary Grace and The Secret Life of Bees.
Tallulah James’s parents’ volatile relationship, erratic behavior, and hands-off approach to child rearing set tongues to wagging in their staid Mississippi town, complicating her already uncertain life. She takes the responsibility of shielding her family’s reputation and raising her younger twin siblings onto her youthful shoulders.
If not for the emotional constants of her older brother, Griff, and her old guard Southern grandmother, she would be lost. When betrayal and death arrive hand in hand, she takes to the road, headed to what turns out to be the not-so-promised land of Southern California. The dysfunction of her childhood still echoes throughout her scattered family, sending her brother on a disastrous path and drawing her home again. There she uncovers the secrets and lies that set her family on the road to destruction.
I was hooked by this book almost immediately upon reading it but unfortunately for the wrong reasons. The book starts with resemblance to The Manson Family Murders which I’m a weirdo and love reading about. However, the book ended up being much less about the murder and more about the circumstances surrounding a family which influenced the family members into who they in their present time which happens to be the 1970’s. If I hadn’t been wanting more of a weird thriller kind of book at the moment, the book would have definitely appealed to me more which is completely my fault for picking up the wrong book at the wrong time.
With that being said, the book is actually very good. Tallulah is a very strong person and it makes her character very likable. You really feel for her and her siblings as their childhood experiences weren’t ideal to say the least. Tallulah’s father screamed Manic Depressive Disorder from the beginning and their mother although not discussed may have Narcissistic Personality Disorder. This book really focuses on the taboo of mental illness, especially during the 60’s and 70’s and it not only showcases the genetic factor of mental illnesses but how they can also play part of the nurture role and really affect a family. It is sad and I feel like one important factor I got from this book is how real mental illness is and how imperative it is to seek treatment for it even with today’s taboos about it.
As I mentioned, the book was less about juiciness and more about how experiences make us who we are and with this, I really felt for our family. I believe that the children in the James family all take certain personality traits from their parents and you can see the striking similarities even with the twins who seem to split where one takes personality traits from the father, Drayton, and one takes personality traits from the mother, Margo.
The ending to this was a bit rushed for me. I felt unsatisfied with knowing about some characters and felt like I was more interested in Walden and his decisions than the family aspects as a whole. I was left wondering. There was so much information that was given throughout the book in the chapters that highlight the past and I felt like some of that information didn’t necessarily lead to anything of importance and with that I was searching for some more connections.
I also feel like the Maise character was underdeveloped and would have liked that story to blossom more or maybe have Tallulah involved more with the Civil Rights movement in order to connect it more to that section.
This book is listed in some places under Historical Fiction and I feel like that’s a misnomer. Just because the story is taken place during a significant historical time does not mean it should be labeled as Historical Fiction. For this genre, I feel like happenings need to be written about in more detail and it should affect the outcome of the story. That didn’t really happen here. Historical happenings were vaguely mentioned and they didn’t affect the story much other than saying what was going on. When I read Historical Fiction, I want to feel like I was there and that didn’t happen here.
If I can look past that this wasn’t what I expected it to be, it was actually quite good. It’s my fault that my preconceived notions led me to feel underwhelmed. Had I not been expecting something else, I would have appreciated the book a little more I think. With that being said, it is still a wonderful read. Family dynamics are really the center focus and although the story was much much different than Tara Westover’s Educated: A Memoir which you can find my review HERE, it has the same aspects of telling a story and understanding how the past can influence someone’s future and the way they deal with life. I suggest the read!