Thursday, September 1, 2016
Book Review: With Love from the Inside
When is the best time to tell someone about the biggest secret from your past? When you first meet? A first date? First kiss? First “I love you?” Right before you walk down the aisle? Sophie Logan, protagonist of Angela Pisel’s debut novel With Love from the Inside, never told her husband Thomas the truth about her mother. "Died of breast cancer when I was twelve," Sophie lied. As her father died of a heart attack when Sophie was in high school, there was no one around to tell Thomas the truth. The years passed. The time was never right.
And then Sophie hears on the news that a woman’s execution date has been set for February 15th. And Sophie knows it’s her mother, Grace. Seventeen years ago, Grace was convicted of murdering Sophie’s baby brother William. Having struggled with depression, Grace was accused of having Munchausen syndrome by proxy. William was often sick after eating. When he died, police found windshield wiper fluid hidden in the garage and traces of it in his baby bottles. Although Grace’s husband, Paul, a minister, never doubted his wife’s innocence, Sophie stopped visiting her when she was in high school. Eventually, she found herself believing her mother was guilty.
With Grace’s execution date breathing down Sophie’s neck, Sophie struggles with what to do next. Her marriage to Thomas is shaky – a surgeon, Thomas loses a child after surgery and may be the subject of a lawsuit; Grace is also suspicious of his relationship with a gorgeous single drug rep. There’s also a child at the hospital, Max, sick and abandoned by his junkie mother, with whom Sophie forms a bond.
The novel alternates between Grace’s diary and Sophie’s present-day challenges. Grace lives up to her name as a woman with uncommon strength, never blaming others for her predicament and even bonding with some of her jailers. While Grace’s memories of family life do not include any incontrovertible evidence of her guilt or innocence, it seems inevitable that the question of what really happened to William will come into play.
With Love from the Inside should appeal to fans of Sarah Pekkanen and Lori Nelson Spielman. While most of the characters are a bit too good to be believed, the underlying messages of hope and forgiveness are moving. A minister’s wife, Grace never gives up on her faith, and Christian readers will find her steadfastness inspiring. But the impact is subtle enough that readers of all and no faith can also appreciate Grace.
Women’s fiction is a genre that is rife with complicated family relationships and long-buried secrets. With Love from the Inside is a nice addition to the category.
Thanks to Putnam for the book in exchange for an honest review.