REVIEW: THE THINGS WE WISH WERE TRUE, BY MARYBETH MAYHEW WHALEN

 

29632984

 

 

A hot summer day in Sycamore Glen, North Carolina, drew adults and children alike to the community pool, where they would chat with old friends, make new ones, and enjoy what seemed like the beginning of a perfect summer.

What looked like a perfect community at first glance was, like any neighborhood, imperfect, and while those who lived there all looked like nice people, some were more so than others. And most of them had secrets, old and new, that they worked hard to hide.

The Things We Wish Were True is an unveiling, in a sense, with our alternating narrators sharing the ordinary and superficial tidbits of life in Sycamore Glen, while gradually revealing just enough of the secrets they are holding…until finally, everything is unleashed.

Cailey is the first narrator, and she and her brother Cutter are new residents, drawn to the pool to keep boredom at bay, while their mother, Lisa, works hard to keep them fed and clothed. She is trying to ignore those who might steer clear of them because of their house, the “eyesore” of the neighborhood that has been home to a series of renters.

Zell Boyette, an older woman with an empty nest, takes the neighbor children to the pool while their single father, Lance Bryson, works. Zell feels a certain degree of guilt about why Debra, the wife and mother, left the family home a few months ago. But her lips are sealed.

Bryte, mother of three-year-old Christopher, and wife to the love of her life, Everett, holds tight to what she has…fearful that she could lose it at any moment.

Because her secret could lead to a great loss.

Especially once she realizes that Jencey Cabot is back in town with her two children, Pilar and Zara, and she could easily whisk Everett away…as she was his first love.

I loved the mix of characters with secrets, and I tried to guess them as I read along…but some were easier to guess than others.

At the dark end of the secrets was a big one right across the street from Zell’s cozy little house. Who would open the door on that one? Would any of the characters lose everything by the end? Could their secrets destroy them? And what near tragedy would start the spool unreeling, thus opening the door for revelations? A delightful book that I could not stop reading, I’m definitely recommending this for everyone who loves family stories and neighborhoods that seem too perfect. 4.5 stars.

ratings-worms-4-cropped***

REVIEW: THE OLEANDER SISTERS, BY ELAINE HUSSEY

18812464It was 1969, and a man had just walked on the moon. In Biloxi, Mississippi, the town is ready to celebrate and ponder the possibilities.

For the Blake sisters, Beth (Sis) and Emily, family and those bonds are everything. Together, along with their grandmother Lucy (Sweet Mama), they run the town café, specializing in down home recipes, including one famous for miles around: the Amen Cobbler. Helping out at home and in the café is Beulah, Sweet Mama’s oldest and dearest friend. To round out the family, Emily’s twin brother Jim has come home from the war in Vietnam, minus one leg, and his emotional scars are deep. But they all hope that time will heal these wounds.

As they struggle to deal with adversity and death (the girls’ parents), and rise above the shame of Emily’s illegitimate son Andy, age six, this new era seems to promise only good things.

Like the man Emily is planning to marry, someone she hopes will lend her the respectability she has sought.

But Sis has a bad feeling about Larry, and before long, there is evidence that she was right.

What will Emily have to survive in order to finally put her life back together? How will the Category 5 Hurricane headed their way change everything? And will the turmoil and new problems keep them from their happiness?

The Oleander Sisters was filled with wonderful characters that made me smile and root for them, and when they came up against the evil that would stand in their way, their strength would see them through. A story of courage, hope, and sacrifice…not to mention some very deep secrets, kept me reading. Recommended for those who enjoy family drama, and stories set in the South. 5.0 stars.