Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Book Review: What She Left Us

By Gail Allison

How would you react if the world as you know it changed in a heartbeat? When Jenna and Courtney’s mother passes away unexpectedly, they both try to deal with the loss in very different ways. Jenna withdraws into herself on a grand scale, breaking up with her fiancé, giving up on her Masters degree, and basically closing herself off from the world at large. Courtney tries to maintain some semblance of normalcy, accepting a position as resident advisor and trying to keep up with her college classes at the same time. They’re both forced to face harsh reality, however, when their mother’s autopsy results come back and they find out that they’re both at risk of having the same disease that killed their mother. Once tested and confirmed that yes, Jenna and Courtney do indeed have hemochromatosis, we again get a chance to see the polar differences between the two sisters in terms of how they deal with this life-altering news, and the fallout from it.

It’s so interesting watching the sisters’ relationship grow and change with the different situation that are thrown at them. The older sister isn’t always the more mature sister (being the oldest of three sisters, I can make this statement with authority!). And to watch the sisters’ relationships with their significant others evolve through this novel was absolutely fascinating. What She Left Us was a fantastic novel. I will definitely be reading this one again. I found myself captivated by Jenna and Courtney. Their personalities and situations were absolutely engrossing, and I got completely lost in this novel more than once. Stephanie Elliot does a phenomenal job of bringing the reader into the sisters’ lives and making you a part of everything that’s going on both inside and around them, without overloading the reader with detail. Not once did I find myself wondering when this book would be over, but rather I found that once it was over, I was revisiting parts of it and wondering how I would deal with the situation, if I were in it.

Truthfully, I had a little trouble getting into this novel. I found the first 10% or so to be a bit slow. I would have liked if it had grabbed me faster, but it was definitely worth holding on for. I found that I really enjoyed the amount of details that Ms. Elliot provided regarding hemochromatosis. I felt like I had a good understanding of the disease, what it does, and how to control it, but I never got bogged down in minutiae. I was also left wondering what was going to become of the sisters once the novel was complete, which, in my mind, signifies an excellent book.

Stephanie Elliot has done a great job of illustrating what lies beneath the surface of a “happy” family. She leaves the reader with a lot to think about, and forces you to question whether what you see on the outside of people is the truth or not. I really enjoyed this book, and I’m definitely putting it on the re-read pile.

Thanks to Stephanie Elliot for the e-book in exchange for an honest review.

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3 comments:

Marie King said...

I'm going to consider this an omen! I was looking for a new summer read and I saw this on someone else's list too! I think I've found my next book. I just finished “Secrets of a Spiritual Guru” by Tamara Lee Dorris, http://tamaradorris.net/. You should give it a glance, it was a great book! Thanks for the review, I can hardly wait to read it!

Stephanie said...

Thanks Marie -- I hope you like the book!

Mary Jo Burke said...

It's on my Kindle!