Boy this took me a long time to read. I had it around for a long time (a prepub and it came out this summer), was somewhat interested in it, especially when it was on Entertainment Weekly’s list of top books to read this summer. Overall, though, I just felt kind of lukewarm about it.
A woman (married, two children) has a difficult relationship with her mother, who seems to be very hard and difficult and cold. The mother has a stroke and now the daughter is consumed with her care and getting to know her as she was and find out why she had to become such a not nice mom after the dad died. She does this by reading some of the many many letters the mother has from her husband. I liked the changing points of view-meeting the mother as a young woman, not crotchety at all, but deeply in love and building a home and marriage. Her husband is a correspondent stationed in Vietnam for most of the children’s lives, and so it seems they are always in a state of waiting and waiting for family life to begin. I did like seeing that story spin out and also there were several secrets that were revealed. I guess what I found hard to get past was that I really didn’t like the main character (so easily put out by her sister in law! so prickly!), and I also didn’t like it that her mother was two such different people in her life. And though there is resolution to the stories, it left me just feeling kind of sad for these lives that were lost and the years that were wasted.