Scarlet Kavanaugh has returned home to spend time with her dying activist mother, who dmg from cancer refuses treatment, opting instead to spend her final days at the home of her best friend Cora. For her burial, Addie has even bigger plans. She wants to be illegally buried in the nature that she has studied and loved so much. The novel begins in media res where Addie has just died and with Scarlet (the day before) just having shared with her a secret that will affect all their lives.
The third person narrative, perfectly unfolding the story in flashback, examines the evolution of Addie’s life with her husband Tom and best friends Lou and Cora, but also the tumultuous relationship that she and her daughter have shared over the years. In the present day storyline Scarlet is supported by Tom, Lou and Cora as she slowly begins to understand her mother and the choices she made in life, and reluctantly comes to terms with her death.
I loved this book. It was so complex and exquisitely written that it’s hard for me to even begin to know how to put my experience on paper. Suffice it to say that there is plenty of food for thought about all the inherent intricacies in relationships and how people change and grow over a lifetime. Hinnefeld makes astute observations about the varying theories that people hold about man’s connection to the environment, how our passions and interests and they way that we choose to pursue them can affect our children. Addie, Scarlet, Tom, Cora and Lou were complex and engaging. There wasn’t any taking of sides because they were so compassionately written and well drawn that though their actions may not have been wholly agreeable, you knew exactly how they understood their circumstances and moved to make their choices. The perspectives of each were easily determined as were their effects on each other.
If you’re interested in a moving and rich novel about strong and complicated familial bonds then this might be something you’ll want to pick up. The characters are principled but flawed as they navigate their changing relationships over the years. The book focuses on the environment, activism and how personal politics play out in the lives of real people in a big way. I enjoyed observing Addie and her friends and seeing how their friendships changed and matured as they left college, attempted meeting the expectations of society, marriage, motherhood and the expectations that they had of each other. The palpable bond between them made it a pleasure to get to know them over the years and see them share in each others triumphs and tragedies.
One last thought–this book is also a compelling mystery with secrets in the air that slowly unfolding. I desperately wanted to make all the connections and know what their secrets were, but at the same time the movement of the story and the characters lives are so interesting and beautiful that it’s easy to forget that you were looking for any answers in the first place. Highly recommended.