Carol Ann Albright Eastman
Shelby Lynn LeeMaster grapples with her recent “orphaned” life and how to let down her guard to fully experience true love, allowing it in to her heart without fear. The mother, Betheny LeeMaster, struggles with dying before she could teach and guide her children into adulthood. The daughter cannot break from her own fears, while the mother cannot forgive herself for leaving her children too soon. The different narrators, the mother in Heaven and the daughter on Earth, tell their stories in alternating chapters. Can the two women reconcile their fears and remorse before it’s too late, and Shelby loses the one man she’s destined to be with?
This isn’t my usual type of book but when Carol contacted me with a lovely email and told me what it was about I admit I decided to give it a chance. Having recently lost my mum, the story of a mother in heaven hoping she’d done alright by her children and a daughter on earth struggling to cope with more loss touched me.
Told in first person by both narrators it really allows us to get under the skin of each character – their hopes and fears and reactions to events. Being part of a large family, there are aunts and siblings everywhere, but despite that large support system both Shelby, the daughter and Bethany, the mother feel alone and different and both are grieving for what they have lost. I felt my heart go out to both ladies as life and loss have battered their hearts. They keep secrets – Shelby especially as she keeps locking her heart to new love in order to avoid the pain. Those feelings are not alien and the way they are dealt with is both moving and beautiful. At the same time the characters are fully rounded and I did enjoy a lot of the discussions between siblings and the feeling of family between them made me smile.
The writing is melodic and wonderful – it certainly doesn’t feel like a debut novel but a competent and inspiring author. I can’t help feeling the book was very personal to Carol as well. The story has a truly timeless quality to it and the unique way in which the afterlife is portrayed makes a lot of sense. While the story will pull at your heartstrings, it is not overwrought but beautifully done – invocative and realistic. I felt for the characters and just wanted to give Shelby a hug! I
Recommended for fans of Adriana Trigiani and Joanne Harris. 9 out of 10