REVIEW: Echoes of Family by Barbara Claypole White
I was reminded of two of my favorite books while reading this story. ECHOES OF FAMILY by Barbara Claypole White weaves a hint of tempestuous saga, as in THE THORN BIRDS by Colleen McCullough but with a plausible happy ending. It also illuminates the country quirkiness of rural English life, which reminds me of James Herriot’s ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL. Ms. White’s talent combines great characteristics of storytelling that engage every emotion.
Marianne Stokes is not an easy person to love. When she goes off her meds, her self-absorption becomes all-consuming to those who try to save her from herself. But, deep inside Marianne has a heart that bleeds for women in trouble, giving them a life through music.
In the beginning of the book we realize Marianne is in trouble. A recent accident in North Carolina reminds her about a tragedy that happened when she was a young adult. Marianne goes back to that small village in England to her best friend Gabriel, a vicar, who she hasn’t spoken to in thirty years.
Marianne is married to Darius and she has an adopted daughter, Jade. Her husband and daughter love her very much, so this story is about them as much as it is about Marianne. Their family runs a music recording studio together so Marianne’s disappearance causes more than just family disruption and anxiety.
Marianne’s husband Darius loves with a passion that almost suffocates. I did wonder frequently whether his passion for Marianne would eventually push her away. But, as Marianne reveals her backstory, I realized it was going to take someone as forgiving as Darius to accept Marianne’s life decisions.
Marianne’s daughter Jade is broken. She has built armor around herself in the way she looks and speaks, so her happiness is one reason I rushed to the end.
My favorite character is Gabriel, the vicar. He was hurt deeply by his past with Marianne and even though his life seems like everything he desires, he’s in desperate need of a shakeup. What Marianne does after 30 years of silence might have broken a lessor man. I really loved Gabriel’s transformation and how his belief in God made him accept Marianne with love and understanding when she needed it most. I also liked that Gabriel isn’t perfect. He isn’t a pushover and I appreciated how he eventually refused to give anymore of himself to Marianne. His imperfections and reactions are very human and interesting.
There were several secondary characters that jumped off the page and created a believable story in England. Barbara Claypole White has a knack for combining the best fictional what if’s, giving them believable twists, then dumping her characters upside down somewhere quirky, teasing them as they crawl out of trouble into a believable happy-ever-after for them. It’s absorbing and very entertaining.
Sometimes this book races at a crazy confused pace while in the manic depressive’s POV. It’s very convincing, as well as sometimes jarring, and before I knew what happened, I was halfway through the book. Ms. White writes about imperfect people with real problems and makes me care about their future.
The end of Chapter 17 is brilliant. The build-up to this scene gives a hint that something is going to happen, but I couldn’t stop laughing once it did. The oddity of the modern music industry meeting the staid English vicar, with witnesses to gossip about it, is so very funny. Add in one manic off her meds and a daughter trying to reason with her after one too many vodkas and it screams British comedy to perfection.
Best described as women’s fiction, this novel explores the love between friends and family when one member’s actions threaten to destroy everyone within reach. I laughed. I cried. I raced along to find out what would happen next. ECHOES OF FAMILY does everything a great book should. It engages. It mesmerizes. It makes you feel for the characters, even when you hate their choices. I loved it and I can’t wait for Ms. White’s next story.
Reviewed by Dorine, courtesy of The Zest Quest. Digital ARC provided by the publisher for an honest review.
One of my favorite authors, see my blog for more books by Barbara Claypole White reviewed by Dorine.
Echoes of Family by Barbara Claypole White
Category: Women’s Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (September 27, 2016)
Rated 4.5 stars out of 5
What do you enjoy most in women’s fiction?