REVIEW: THE LIBRARY OF LOST & FOUND, BY PHAEDRA PATRICK


Librarian Martha Storm has always found it easier to connect with books than people—though not for lack of trying. She keeps careful lists of how to help others in her superhero-themed notebook. And yet, sometimes it feels like she’s invisible.

All of that changes when a book of fairy tales arrives on her doorstep. Inside, Martha finds a dedication written to her by her best friend—her grandmother Zelda—who died under mysterious circumstances years earlier. When Martha discovers a clue within the book that her grandmother may still be alive, she becomes determined to discover the truth. As she delves deeper into Zelda’s past, she unwittingly reveals a family secret that will change her life forever.

From the beginning of The Library of Lost and Found, we are brought into the inner world of Martha Storm as she finds herself immersed in numerous tasks for others. Keeping busy seems to be her way of doing good, and perhaps it is a way to fill in the gaps in her family life. She has no husband or lover, although we do learn about a former fiance she planned to marry years before, but whom she lost when she chose taking care of her parents over going to the states with him. Did her self-sacrifice stem from some missing pieces in her family life? Did her call to duty develop due to her losses?

Grandmother Zelda played a huge role in Martha’s life, whereas her father’s voice in her head scolding her for various actions appeared to drive her choices when she no longer had her grandmother assisting her. Zelda’s mysterious “death” was definitely a turning point for her.

But then something happens in the present in the form of a mysterious book, and suddenly everything begins to change. I liked how Martha seemed to grow a spine and stand up for herself, and I especially wanted her to do so when it came to her sister, who constantly abused Martha’s need to help.

This book kept me rapidly turning pages because I enjoyed watching Martha grow and change, and I couldn’t wait to see what would happen to her next. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: GO ASK FANNIE, BY ELISABETH HYDE

 

When Murray Blaire invites his three grown children to his New Hampshire farm for a few days, he makes it clear he expects them to keep things pleasant. The rest of his agenda–using Ruth and George to convince their younger sister, Lizzie, to break up with her much older boyfriend–that he chooses to keep private. But Ruth and George arrive bickering, with old scores to settle. And, in a classic Blaire move, Lizzie derails everything when she turns up late, cradling a damaged family cookbook, and talking about possible criminal charges against her.

This is not the first time the Blaire family has been thrown into chaos. In fact, that cookbook, an old edition of Fannie Farmer, is the last remaining artifact from a time when they were a family of six, not four, with a father running for Congress and a mother building a private life of her own. The now -obscured notes written in its pages provide tantalizing clues to their mother’s ambitions and the mysterious choices she once made, choices her children have always sought without success to understand. Until this weekend.

As the Blaire siblings piece together their mother’s story, they come to realize not just what they’ve lost, but how they can find their way back to each other. In this way, celebrated author Elisabeth Hyde reminds readers that family survival isn’t about simply setting aside old rivalries, but preserving the love that’s written between the lines.

 

My Thoughts: From the very first page of Go Ask Fannie, the reader is offered a peek into the squabbles between two adult siblings who are on their way to their dad’s home in New Hampshire.

Ruth, the eldest, an attorney who lives in Washington, D.C., is full of criticism and advice, trying to immediately take control of the situation. George, who is a nurse, gives back his point of view, too, but he shows a bit more empathy. The two are fighting about what should happen to their father, Murray, who is 81 and so far maintaining his independence.

Upon arrival, the third sibling enters the picture, with her own battles to fight. Her much older boyfriend has ruined the family’s Fannie Farmer cookbook, the one legacy they have from their mother, Lillian, who had died thirty-two years ago, along with their brother Daniel.

Between the lines, we learn more about the family dynamics as the author shows us what those interactions look like, while the multiple narrators take us back and forth in time. By the end of the story, we have a clearer picture of the family’s secrets, the untold wishes and dreams, and the mistaken beliefs they each held.

A story with distinct characters one could easily love and hate at the same time, this one offered us a glimpse of what life could look like if each of them shared these hidden truths. 5 stars.

***

A TALE OF LOSS & SERENDIPITY — A REVIEW

A breathtaking and lyrical tale unfolds as we meet, in turn, two female characters: Julie Holt, a New Yorker and native of Massachusetts and Aimee Guidry, maternal “great-grandmother” of Julie’s best friend Monica Guidry.

After Monica’s death, Julie takes Monica’s son Beau back to Biloxi, to the beachfront property left to them in Monica’s will. What Julie finds, however, is a storm-ravaged home (Katrina) and dead beach trees. Her journey next leads her to the home of Ray Von Williams, who gives her a mysterious package and directs her to New Orleans and to Aimee.

As the relationships between the characters are revealed over the following pages, we learn the stories of the two women, told in first person narration by each of them. Aimee’s story begins in the 1950s and details the pre-and post-Hurricane Camille years, while Julie’s shows us the mysterious loss of her sister Chelsea during their childhood.

As a backdrop to the family stories, we watch as Julie, in partnership with Monica’s brother Trey, who shares ownership of the beach cottage, take on its restoration and gradually begin to trust and even like each other. Will a romantic connection develop here?

What the tales of the women reveal about their families, the secrets they carry, and the mysterious connections between them is the backbone of The Beach Trees: a tale told with beautiful language, poignant themes of loss and reconnecting, and the gradual unfolding of the mysteries of the past that underscore its timeliness. The lively and very real and flawed characters are reminders that, in the face of great destruction, people can begin again.

Five stars.