Plot: This is a mature, wonderful, provocative and starkly memorable narrative that unfolds seamlessly.
Prose/Style: The prose is well-crafted and embellished in a high-literary style and flows smoothly throughout the book.
Originality: This wise novel is one of love, loss, seduction, and growth. While the complex circumstances of a third individual entering a marriage is a literary convention that has been explored before, the author is up to the task and does so in a manner that reflects an understanding of the many types of human love and the manifestations of grief.
Character Development: The characters are complex, truly human, and relatable. Readers may crave additional backstory for Sissy and other individuals, but the author shows great finesse in crafting a layered and charismatic cast.
Date Submitted: June 15, 2020
A nontraditional family copes with a great loss in this debut novel.
Sissy Cornwall is a force of nature. Her vibrance, spontaneity, and friendliness positively affect everyone in her orbit; her life motto is “No tears.” That’s why married couple Liz and Cliff Gordon gave the widowed, pregnant young woman a place to stay 18 years ago. Now she and her teenage son, Artie, live with them in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Liz and Cliff have two children of their own, Clara and Michael, and Sissy has becomes a permanent fixture in all of their lives. But when Sissy dies after a long illness, the family no longer knows how to interact with one another. Sissy was a role model to Clara, and the teen strictly adheres to Sissy’s “No tears” policy; Artie is afraid of losing the rest of the family, now that his mother is gone; and Cliff and Liz gave so much of their love to Sissy that they seem to have forgotten how to express it to each other.
Averill’s novel shines as it examines the nature of different forms of love within the framework of a grieving family. The story brims with vivid descriptions, particularly when Averill sets a scene, though sometimes the excessive detail feels overwrought. Clara’s arc is a standout, and her romantic feelings for Artie will be relatable to anyone who’s experienced the intensity of young love. Even more intriguing are Liz’s and Cliff’s perspectives as they realize that they’ve failed to grow as a couple." - Kirkus Review