McKeon creates strong empathy for Phoebe, Sidney, and Adele, powerfully exploring mother-daughter dynamics at varying stages of life. The characters aren’t entirely believable, though: Phoebe is preternaturally quick on her feet, while Sidney hasn’t noticed that pay phones have all but disappeared. Sidney’s behavior with J.T., her increasingly paranoid and disturbed colleague at the failing Poppy Press, exhibits such poor judgment as to fail the credibility test. McKeon provides some backstory for J.T.’s downward mental spiral and rants about the IRS and terrorists, but that doesn’t explain why Sidney finds him “mesmerizing” and is willing to tolerate his uninvited, unwanted intrusions into her life even after realizing he might be genuinely dangerous.
Some of the story’s pivotal moments hinge on obvious contrivances: Sidney’s decision not to call Adele and send Phoebe home, Adele’s unwillingness to tell Phoebe why her father abandoned the family, and the menacing reappearance after 50 years of Sidney’s father. These flaws aren’t fatal, but they reduce the story’s emotional impact. McKeon’s novel is at its strongest when it puts chosen and blood families under the microscope.
Takeaway: This exploration of mother-daughter relationships, biological and otherwise, will resonate with readers of women’s fiction.
Great for fans of Jodi Picoult, Kristin Hannah, Luanne Rice.
Design and typography: B+
Marketing copy: B