For a drama that has a bit of everything, and yet doesn’t feel like it’s crammed too full of things; for a strong focus on family and forgiveness (of others, yourself, the world…)
Two days before Tam and Tony Kwan receive their letter of acceptance for the son they are adopting from China, Tony and his estranged cousin Mia are killed unexpectedly in an accident. A shell-shocked Tam learns she is named the guardian to Mia’s five-year-old daughter, Angela. With no other family around, Tam has no choice but to agree to take in the girl she hasn’t seen since the child was an infant.
Overwhelmed by her life suddenly being upended, Tam must also decide if she will complete the adoption on her own and bring home the son waiting for her in a Chinese orphanage. But when a long-concealed secret comes to light just as she and Angela start to bond, their fragile family is threatened. As Tam begins to unravel the events of Tony and Mia’s past in China, she discovers the true meaning of love and the threads that bind her to the family she is fated to have.
There’s a lot in this story, all on a winding path through Tam’s tangled heart. Tam starts her story with us by losing her husband Tony in a really sick accident. But then there’s the confusion surrounding why he lied to her about where he was and who he was with just before he died. Tam is left with hurt and anger and grief and fear all at once. Add in the suspicions on the people who killed her husband and whether it was truly an accident or not to give a dash of mystery to the story. Really what we end up with is a story of grief, love, forgiveness, family, and a little bit of a murder investigation.
The strongest themes are grief and loss, as Tam and her inherited-daughter Angela are thrown together by the loss Tam’s husband and his cousin, Angela’s mother. While this is a somewhat inspiring story in the way people can come together and find family and love after wrenching loss, it’s also very very sad in it’s inherent topics. As I learned more about each character, I found myself liking them all less and less as they became more flawed and more human. By the end, though, I also found forgiveness for them the way they did for themselves.
The format switches to include some letters from Mia later in the story, which shed some light on the secrets Tam hints at early in the story. It’s through the alternating views of Mia’s past and Tam’s discovery of it that reconciles what pieces of the story each person truly knew. I was equally interested in both stories, so switching from one to the other was never disappointing (except when it ended at a really intriguing part, but I knew I’d come back to it soon enough!).
Ultimately, the main “reveal” of the story was something I had anticipated from early on, so it lacked the punch it might have been intended as. Still, I was strangely sucked into the story. The disconnect I have is that while I was reading, I didn’t feel like I was desperate to keep reading. And yet, I finished the last half of the book in one sitting, ignoring my growling hunger, as I continued thinking just one more chapter… Even though I didn’t think I was THAT into it, I guess I was that into it?
This was a solid read that I’m glad I sank into. I’ll likely pick up Butler’s other work, The Tiger Mom’s Tale.
Thanks to the author and Berkley Publishing Group for a free advanced copy. This is my honest review.