Madison’s raw emotions ripple across the page as she reluctantly returns to her beautiful but stifling hometown and struggles to navigate her rocky relationships: her interactions with her mother are strained and painful, and her stilted conversations with her brothers devolve into angry fights . Initially, readers will share Madison’s frustration with her father’s vague, cryptic appeals that seem like distractions from her compelling emotional journey. But as Madison searches for answers, she discovers that her father’s anguish has more to do with her than she realized As she sits at her father’s bedside, Madison hopes that during his moments of lucidity they will be able to mend the ugly rift in their relationship.
But Stanley builds smoothly to revelations, like Madison’s father’s deeper purpose for their reunion: to ask for Madison’s help in freeing a woman wrongfully convicted for a murder he knows she didn’t commit. As Madison struggles to understand her father’s role in the injustice, she discovers that her family harbors more secrets than even she realized. Stanley unravels this mystery carefully and deliberately, often using Madison’s dialogue and internal monologue to recap her progress. An unexpected twist in the final chapters is surprising but well-earned, offering a satisfying synthesis of Madison’s past and her father’s last request.
Takeaway: Well-constructed mystery of family angst, redemption, and satisfying twists.
Comparable Titles: Charlie Donlea’s Twenty Years Later, Ashley Flowers’s All Good People Here.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-