Full disclosure: this book wasn’t in my radar until Jimmy Fallon featured it as a summer read for his book club. And while I don’t usually take any celeb’s reading suggestions to heart, there’s something about this book that called on my bibliophile sensibilities. And boy, was I happy I picked it up. This was an enduring, heart-captivating read about family, mental health, friendships, love and forgiveness for the people we love no matter the veracity of how they wronged us.
This is a story about two families whose lives are irrevocably connected regardless of time and circumstances over the years. We first meet the two patriarchs of the Stanhopes and the Gleesons in 1973. Besides being in the same profession (cops), they have nothing in common. But somehow, they end up living right beside each other. Behind closed doors, one wife dealt with the loneliness of young motherhood (Lena, Francis’ wife) while the other lived with mental instabilities that isolated her even in her home (Anne, Brian’s wife).
Years later, a friendship between Francis’ youngest daughter, Kate, and Brian’s son, Peter blossomed. When they were both fourteen, and during one of Anne’s episodes, a violent crime was committed that would change the trajectory of their lives. What followed was years of loneliness for both Peter and Kate as they tried to deal with the fallout of the tragedy that struck their lives.
This is one of those books that no matter how ugly your connections were, fate somehow, someway, intervenes. That regardless the distance or how many years have passed, the connection can’t be severed. As in the case of Peter and Kate. Because of how their stories were intertwined, they’re never too far away from each other’s thoughts. And while Kate tried her best to move on, Peter, being the sensitive soul that he was, couldn’t. He loved Kate right from the beginning, and vice versa. Despite their families’ wishes to not see each other, and the mental and emotional baggages that came along with them, they were irrevocably tied.
My heart ached for Peter. He was, for all intents and purposes, abandoned by his own parents. Even though both were physically present, they had emotionally checked out from his life since his knowing years. His mother suffered from a mental illness that made her unstable. She was abusive at times, catatonic, most days. But on her good days, she was a mother who doted on Peter. His father, on the other hand, did his best. And unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. He wasn’t strong enough to carry the load. He left Peter in the care of his brother, George — who gave him the emotional support of a father.
In the end, and in the rubble of years of heartaches and disturbing pasts, love survives. Forgiveness endures. Family remains. I think those were the foremost lessons I have gleaned from this book. There are no villains here. Just people surviving from one day to the next.