By: Karma Brown
Publisher: Park Row Books
Publication Date: 5/30/2017
My Rating: 4 Stars
Bestselling author Karma Brown returns following The Choices We Make (2016) with an with an equally moving, emotional and riveting follow-up.
—IN THIS MOMENT a woman struggles with complexities of tragedy, guilt, and secrets as her life unravel along with those around her.
Meg Pepper is a wife and mom with a real estate career. Married to Ryan, a physician. Daughter Aubrey age fifteen (boyfriend Sam Beckett).
Meg and Aubrey are running late for a dentist appointment and Meg is picking up her daughter at school. She is struggling to balance family and career and has not been completely honest about an event in her past.
They notice Jack (Sam’s twin brother) on the side of the road attempting to get across. His mom is a financial whiz and works at one of Boston’s private equity firms. The boy’s dad Andrew is a stay at home dad, having left a journalism career when the twin boys were born.
Jack has his skateboard on the curb’s edge in one hand waiting for the car coming toward their car to pass so he can cross. His friends are on the other side waiting. Aubrey tells her mom they should let him cross. She waves him across. A life-changing split-second choice.
However, just as she does so, the unthinkable happens. Jack’s body smashes into the windshield of the other car which came out of nowhere, too fast. Aubrey and Meg are mortified. How did this happen?
Sarah Dunn, Audrey and Jack’s history teacher was texting and had to stop too quickly.
However, it is Meg’s guilt, which haunts her.
She was the one who deemed it a safe crossing for this innocent and clearly vulnerable teenager now lying in the road with an injury that will forever change his life. How could she have let the boy cross the street?
The accident turns into a nightmare for all concerned.
Meg is suddenly slammed with a memory from when she was sixteen; from a terrible night where another teen lay bleeding and broken on a road in front of her. She has worked hard not to think about that night because she cannot breathe around her guilt when she does so. But just like that, it was back and she was left sucking in air around the heaviness of the memory—
And like the part she played on that night so long ago, she was the reason Jack Beckett cross the road when he did. It is her fault. With a simple careless wave of her hand, she did this.
Soon they are at the hospital and she faces the family. With her daughter dating the brother, and even though the family may not be close friends they know one another through their children.
Meg becomes overwhelmed with guilt. Her family and Jack and Sam’s family torn apart. Meg becomes close to Andrew as her terrifying dreams continue. The past and present collide. She is thinking about Paige. Her friend from the past. Her face haunts her.
It has been twenty-eight years since that horrible night. Now the dreams surface again. Two days after Ryan slid the engagement ring on her finger. Only a week after her twenty-fifth birthday, when she learned her mom had cancer. Ryan in pre-med. A woman who had to grow up too fast. A sister who had to take care of her little brother and her dad.
Meg throws herself into helping the family and drawing closer to Andrew. Shutting out her own family in the process, especially her own husband. He knows the truth about the accident long ago, but he has never understood why she holds herself responsible. She carries it inside. She is spiraling out of control.
Andrew turns to Meg for support, and the two bond over the tragedy, putting at risk her marriage, family and her own moral compass.
Will these two families ever be the same?
As the past secrets and guilt collide with the present, Meg is at her breaking point. Emotional and heartbreaking, a picture-perfect life comes shattering apart in the blink of an eye. A wife and mother striving for perfection and balance with personal, career, and family.
She is searching for answers yet she cannot trust herself, to be honest through her grief with the weight from the accident of long ago and the one in the present.
Once again, Brown delves deep, exploring the intense emotions and pressure of guilt, grief, parenting, marriage, accountability, and responsibility. However, in the end, family comes first and that has to take top priority. If we let that slide, all will begin to unravel.
Brown has proven herself a strong voice representing the trials of the modern-day contemporary woman. I enjoyed reading about the inspiration behind the novel. Publishers Weekly interview. Spotlight on Karma Brown.
A cautionary tale. This scenario could happen to anyone. My heart went out to Meg and the author does an exceptional job with the character development.
If you have read Karma’s previous books, she has a way with domestic suspense, tragedy, emotion, grief and aftermath – which hits on every cylinder. She holds nothing back and you get inside her character’s heads. You feel the emotions. Their desperation. Their vulnerabilities. The character’s emotions are real, heartbreaking, raw, and painful.
The past tragedy and present storyline enhanced the overall tension and suspense, keeping you glued to the pages while demonstrating how guilt can hold you down and shape your life years later.
For today’s contemporary woman who sometimes strives too hard to be perfect. Thought-provoking in our fast and furious world today. Learning to forgive yourself in order to move on with your life.
For fans of Amy Hatvany, Jodi Picoult, Diane Chamberlain, Liane Moriarty, Karen White, Heather Gudenkauf, Sarah Pekkanen, and T. Greenwood.
A special thank you to Park Row Books and NetGalley for an early reading copy.
On a side note: This road crossing fiasco is a real problem here. I walk everywhere in the downtown urban area of West Palm Beach and there are two major crossings which are quite busy from my apartment. A crossing with four busy lanes to the market and shops and no way around it. The only route. Many times a car in one lane will stop to allow you to pass, at the crossing (no light here).
However, you cannot trust this, just as the book outlines— because the person in the other lane may not stop and the speed here is very fast. This is quite dangerous since a large number of elderly seniors live downtown, and walk to the store along this route. They are already quite unsteady in their walkers, wheelchairs, and scooters. I cringe each time I see this happen, holding my breath.
These elderly folks are like in their late 70s-90s and still trying to live independently in this crazy screwed up health care system of ours, which offer little or no support for long-term skilled nursing. (many of them living in my building).
When this happens to me, I motion for the car to pass along. Nice for them to make the gesture; however, a risk as the author outlines. Too much room for error when you cannot judge if the car in the other lanes will stop. In addition, we soon will have a train going 80mph at this same intersection with the station located here, with 40 stops a day coming mid-summer, so let’s hope they build an overpass or some alternative for all the S. Florida seniors. (myself included since I fall into this newfound category).
By: Camille Di Maio
Publisher: Lake Union
Publication Date: 5/16/2017
My Rating: 5 Stars +
From the bestselling author, Camille DiMaio of The Memory of Us, the smashing debut landing on my Top 50 Books of 2016 returns with another stunning follow-up, equally as gripping.
An enthralling modern mystery: BEFORE THE RAIN FALLS —Beautifully written and incredibly poignant, a story of love, loss, and redemption. 5 Stars + Top Books of 2017
A tragic tale which will restore your faith and strength of the human spirit to rise despite adversity― A courageous woman who keeps a dark secret and makes tremendous "sacrifices" that will change her family forever.
Emotional and intriguing. At the same time— a timeless love story, reminding us that often in our darkest hour, hope shines a candle to light our way.
Set in humid South Texas (author's hometown San Antonio), a dual storyline (almost three), alternating between Della’s dark and horrific experiences of the 1940s; her parents: Herman and Eva, and sister Eula (the beloved songbird); and Paloma (grandmother Abuela) and Mick’s present-day search for answers―paths destined to cross, decades apart.
Two sisters. A death. Two mysterious portraits. One found, another lost. A town in need of hope and much-needed rain.
Told in alternating chapters between the 1940s and present day. A washed-up journalist and a young doctor cross paths while searching for the truth behind the mystery murder decades earlier.
Della Lee and Tomas Trujillo had been married only four hours when it happened, their newly minted future ripped apart by an ivory-handled knife.
Tomas said he understood why she’d done what she did. But the fairy tales that Della had imagined for them ever since that day were over. Someone had attempted to break that bond.
She made a choice that would change her world forever, and alter the path of someone she holds dear.
Texas 1943— Eula Lee had been murdered. The tiny border town was devastated for the second time by the Lee family. The daughter everyone cherished. Della Lee Trujillo was convicted. Guilty of murder in the death of her younger sister.
"The drops of rain make a hole in the stone, not by violence, but by oft falling."—Lucretius
Alternating from Puerto Pesar—Present Day: Della was back in the place that consumed her memories through seventy years in prison. Now, in her nineties. Tomas had lived in the house for a few years until going off to war, but he had the foresight to take care of all the legal bits that Della never had the chance to consider.
It was not until she returned to her childhood home that phantoms and memories stirred her, making it impossible to rest. There were births, deaths, marriages, joys, sorrows that were absorbed into these walls.
Did their ghosts mingle, along with those of Herman, Eva, Tomas, and Durla—all watching her this old woman in this old house? The painting, the shrine, the beloved girl. Where was the second one?
She looked back at her life. The forties —when she learned to be a champion, catcher of greased pigs. The fifties— when she discovered a love of reading. The sixties— when she sabotaged her chance at parole. And yet they seemed like yesterday.
The days in which her sister was no longer the belle of Puerto Pesar— drawing crowds from around the country to the little church on Sunday mornings. The days instead when Eula resided six feet below the parched soil in the churchyard.
These were her Freedom Days. She would walk around without bars to block the view. That was one kind of freedom. It was the freedom in telling your secrets before it was too late. Her guilt over not being a good enough caregiver for her sister.
Della had a story and she was ready to tell it. This would be the Truth Days.
Present Day: Mick Anders, a reporter for the Daily Talk in Boston, looking for a story to revive his career. He is in Texas to research the origins of a church painting depicting a “crying girl”. He is staying at the La Palma Inn the only lodging in the small border town of Puerto Pesar. He is struggling with his own battles.
His editor wanted him to lie low regarding a fiasco with a senator (backstory here). He had been told to work his magic in this Podunk town and turn the story into a Pulitzer winner. Go to Texas until his other deal blew over. Two weeks of leave. His orders were to find a knockout story or he was finished. No per diem of course since this was not a real assignment.
His girlfriend Stephanie had taken the keys to the Lexus and kicked him out of their condo. He was going to get a story and spin straw into gold and return to the newspaper as the prodigal son.
The area had not had rain for one hundred and eighty-two days. The photo had shown rosaries and holy cards outside the church as people begged for salvation from this hell. Would he discover the mysteries of this family before the rain falls? Before the woman dies without telling her story. He wanted to be the one.
It all boiled down to this: A portrait found in a thrift store and was thought to be leaking tears. The image of a young girl about four years old. Eula Lee, whose father owned the fish cannery that had been the town’s largest employer at the time. Her sister had murdered her years later. Della Lee had gone to prison and recently returned to the family house after seventy years of incarceration.
However, what was the real story?
The people of the town had enjoyed a regional notoriety for a while. Then the heat, the drought, and skepticism sent people away. Mick had received his Hail Mary pass. “Had one mistake, one reckless grasp at advancement been worth banishment to a Hades what seemed so out of place in a civilized country?"
And could any kind of salvation be found in a convicted nonagenarian and the portrait of a long-dead girl named Eula?”
Mick meets Paloma Vega by chance, who is back in her hometown to help her grandmother recover from a heart attack. An unexpected meeting. He does not realize how this girl and her family will change his life.
Present Day: Paloma Vega. She had moved away ten years earlier. She was a bona fide New Yorker now and grew up in Puerto Pesar. She had a restless heart. She graduated from high school and received a letter from her father in Connecticut. There was a trust large enough for her college and grad school.She had to leave her sister Mercedes who was only six at the time. At nineteen she left for a new future.
Now a few months away from thirty, she was a different person. Four years at NYU, four more at Columbia for medical school, and a two- year residency and a job offer for a permanent position. Her dad would be proud.
Her sister, Mercedes was only sixteen. How was she going to communicate or help her? Who was this creature with the dark eyeliner and darker mood? How would she reach her? She is feeling guilty.
Abuela’s own mother had been a product of the Depression and learned to hoard items for reuse. She had only made four visits in ten years. Not often enough to visit the intricacies of her sister growing up or her grandmother growing old.
Puerto Pesar. Family. There was something comforting about returning home, even if you’d dreamed of leaving it. She had done what any girl from a small border would do when her upper-class father offered her a way out; escaped. She had been too young to think twice. Too starry-eyed to feel guilty.
Until recently. The hospital had agreed to hold her new position for a month so she could go home and help Mercedes take care Abuela after her heart attack. This was the woman who had raised her while her own mother flitted in and about town.
Abuela needed her, even if she denied it. So here she was. She could never repay her grandmother for all she had done raising Paloma and then Mercedes while holding down three jobs to do so. Paloma quickly realized the toll her absence had taken on her sister. What could she do about it in the short period of three weeks while here?
Past 1943: The author takes us back to Goree State Farm for Women— Della Lee Trujillo was sentenced to life in prison, with the possibility of parole in twenty years and would live out those days at Goree State Farm in Huntsville. At the prison, there she met the musical group and friends, the Goree Girls. The good, bad and ugly. Not much good.
Tomas had said he would wait for her. She drove him away.
On the way to prison, the driver had something else in mind and pulled over at the motel. She had never been with a man, not even her own husband.
Reporters wondered why she killed her sister. To others, she was not a victim help by a captor. She was a convicted murderer being lawfully transported by an agent of the state. She was now helpless. The violation. The humiliation. She could not think about the future ahead of her. No one would listen to a murderer.
While in prison . . . she was consumed with darkness. She feared for her life. She was angry with her mother for leaving, with her father for checking out, with her sister for dying. Eddie for raping her. They had all failed her, and because of them, she failed Tomas.
Everyone thought she was a murderer. It had been her wedding day. In prison, she could not read his letters. She loved him too much to make him sacrifice his happiness for her. She was stubborn. She had to raise a headstrong Eula.
It was all about Eula. It had always been about her. Della and Eula only two years apart. Essentially, momma and daughter. Eula had an effect, on everyone. She had a fearsome temper. The same look on her mother’s face on that last day at the beach with the painter. An unspoken triumph.
However, was she really a murderer? Who was she protecting?
“Regret. A word she knew intimately. Only three people knew the truth about what happened that day, and two of them resided in this cemetery.”
Present day: Paloma and Mick meet, while in town. . . Two East Coasters here for a brief time.
The scandals of the Lee family had been talked about for years. Mick and Paloma discuss speaking with Abuela to find out more about Della Lee. She would know stories to help point him in the right direction. Abuela begins telling what she remembers. She is recently home from the hospital and weak.
Where it all started: She recalls a trip where Eva and the girls and the painter went out of town. Eva packed up and left while Herman was at work and the little girls were in the house alone until he returned. Two young girls, ages six and four. Eva never came back. Herman retreated from everything except his office and the girls had to fend for themselves.
Della Lee was no murderer. Her mother had thought she was innocent. There was no proof and it was complicated by the fact Della pled guilty. However, uncle Tomas was convinced of her innocence.
Tomas came back from service defeated by Della rejection. He volunteered for combat and joined the Marines, and turned down a safe post with the army locally. Was Eula like Eva? Carrying on with the boys—rages. But to everyone else a saint?
DiMaio takes us back to the Lee family when they came to Puerto Pesar around the turn of the century. Herman fell for a local girl Eva. She was troubled, beautiful. Some said she was unfaithful. Herman Lee had money. They had a daughter, Della and a few years later another girl named Eura. The mid-twenties and Herman was a slave to keep Eva happy.
Then along came a vagabond from El Paso. He earned his keep as he went along painting landscapes and portraits. They said his name was Teddy Brown. Eva and Teddy caused quite the scandal. The husband was busy with work and she would meet him at the coast.
Herman Lee found out something about the painter Teddy Brown and he died in an airplane crash on his way to Europe. A tragedy. Two young girls left alone. Eula’s troubles started when her mother left. The paintings.
Mick is drawn into the story and, Paloma is a real distraction for him. Seeing the painting, and going to her grandmother’s house. However, he was here for a reason.
He needed to meet Della Lee, now ninety years old and lived alone. This woman seemed normal. How strange it must be for her at this age reentering the real world. He had come originally to see the portrait of her sister. Santa Bonita. He soon comes to respect this woman. Why had her mother gone away for ten years and then go find her? They lost a mother so young and a father so tragically.
“Things aren’t always as they seem. Don’t assume you know everything you might have read about me is the truth. Only I know the truth. And the only other two who did have long since died.”
An exclusive interview with the woman herself. Incarcerated for seven decades. He needed this knockout story. He felt alive. Difficult to think this woman could have murdered anyone. Mick must learn the mysteries behind Eula. He hoped she could hang on and have enough strength to get it all out.
"Sacrifice is sanctifying." Mick was learning this family was about religion. However, it was cryptic. What drove her to murder her sister if so much had gone into protecting her?
There were also two portraits. One of Eula and one of Della. A story which needed to be told before it could be snatched away, as so many other things in here past. Holding on to things so deeply driving you to do things that seem inexplicable.
So much fun reading about the tales of the Goree Girls All Strings Band! The friendships of these women. The letters from poor Tomas pouring out his heart. A doctor and a journalist pulled into this saga.
Two people from the East Coast, visiting a small border town, and transformed by a place that did not even show up on most maps.
At 95% was dying to learn what happened that night. This lady can write folks! She has a knack for tugging at your heart strings and never letting go.
A beautifully told, tragic tale. Women enduring facing insurmountable hardships. Loved ones separated. Choices and consequences which trickle down through generations. A sacrifice. A strong parallel between the generations.
With memorable characters, and conceptual depth, and heart-pounding tension, DiMaio’s novel is one that simply unputdownable. I love this author! From her first book, I knew this one possessed a God-given talent. A gifted storyteller.
Both timeline stories were equally developed, absorbing, and engaging. The characters jump off the page and you feel their intense pain, agony, and difficult decisions. Both heartbreaking and a very satisfying ending. This saga and its characters will remain with long after the book ends.
There are also religious tones with both her books regarding Roman Catholicism and its distinctive beliefs including certain doctrines, beliefs, and sacraments: Other distinctive Catholic practices include veneration of saints, use of the crucifix, and the use of rosary beads in prayer.
Through all the pain, loss and tragedy there is hope and life gives us surprises and something beauty out of tragedy when we least expect. For fans of historical, women’s, literary and contemporary fiction as well as romance, suspense, and modern mystery.
Perfect for fans of Nicholas Sparks, Charles Martin (Long Way Gone), Richard Paul Evans, Fredrik Backman, Catherine Ryan Hyde, Karen White, Kristin Hannah, Katherine Hughes (The Secret and The Letter), Sarah Jio, Kate Morton, Lisa Wingate, and Diane Chamberlain.
I adore the author’s book trailers: They are powerful, moving, emotional and will immediately draw you into the lives of her characters. Oh, and the stunning cover . . .
View Book Trailers:
Before the Rain Falls
The Memory of Us
What a great way to spend a Saturday! Set aside the time—Unputdownable. Spectacular—another smashing hit by Camille DiMaio! Fans, you will want to pre-order BEFORE THE RAIN FALLS, now.
In the meantime, if you have not read The Memory of Us , highly recommend. Would love to see both these played out on the wide screen. Movie worthy!
A special thank you to the author, Lake Union, and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Southern storyteller, Wendy Wax returns following Sunshine Beach #4 Top Book of 2016 with my favorite summer series ONE GOOD THING (#5 Ten Beach Road). We continue the journey with the gals, each at a crossroad both personally and professionally, with critical decisions to be made.
A tale of four women trying to rebuild more than their lives. Before you can fix it up, you might have to tear it down…
From friendships, humor, loyalty, and self-discovery — each of the characters is looking for “one good thing” to be thankful for their nightly gathering discussion. However, with everything going on and so many unsettled issues, often they find it hard to think of the good, versus the bad happenings.
This time around, Maddie, Kyra, Avery, and Niki receive a surprise visit from their former investor/sponsor and friend, Bitsy Baynard (Palm Beach matron).
Unfortunately, her husband decides to take all his wealthy wife’s money and makes off with a younger woman, leaving her penniless and homeless. Bitsy is too proud to tell the gals what is going on in her perfect life and shows up looking for a place to stay with her dog.
Bitsy assumes she can have the money back she invested in the project, which of course is still tied up. Her pampered rich lifestyle is no longer and she is forced to move into the small one bedroom Sunshine Hotel cottage, which is quite small since meant to be a vacation cottage, not for year-round living, especially someone like Bitsy.
She had an Ivy League education and has volunteered to coordinate galas and events over the years and she knew how to hire help. However, she has no marketable job skills. At her age, was going to be hard to start over with nothing.
All the characters’ lives are up in the air. They are unsure what is going on with the TV show, and at the same time, they need to sell off the last real estate design project/real estate to pay their debts and not risk losing Bella Flora.
Madeline Singer and William Hightower (age 62) are back. William is on the road with his music career and wants Madeline to come along as they continue their relationship. However, she has her own life even though it is difficult to spend time apart.
However, she worries about him out of the road without her and all the women and his addiction; and having to communicate with his new assistant. They are trying to grab any time they can to be together. (love this couple)
They all had suffered from the Malcolm Dyer’s Ponzi scheme; however, they had become stronger and bonded when they started over with their TV show, Do Over. Rebuilding their lives. However, life has its ups and down.
The ladies had recently renovated the Sunshine Hotel and hoped would be their own version of Do Over. They had quit the network publicly and they were being sued for breach of contract and claiming that the name Do Over does not belong to them.
Kyra has put up the house as collateral to have money for their projects until the cottages sold/and the show they had filmed. Daniel, her celebrity husband gave her the house to live in with her mom and dad and son, Dustin. She has kept this as a secret until things worked out. Plus he wants to turn Dustin into a Hollywood star.
Their only real hope of income was finishing and selling the documentary of their renovation of the midcentury Sunshine Hotel, featuring the reopened investigation into the mysterious death and disappearance that had taken place there. They were all under a lot of pressure, which did not make for a whole lot of creative thinking.
Nikki is pregnant with twins and is miserable with her hormones, weight gain, and the summer heat. Joe (FBI) and Nikki have moved in together in one of the new cottages at the Sunshine Hotel. However, he and his family are pressuring her to get married before the babies are born. After the problems with her brother, she is unsure of her capability of being the perfect wife and mother.
Avery is dealing with her boyfriend, Chase’s teenage son’s drinking problems, and his erratic behavior. Maddie’s ex-husband Steve is still hanging around; however, has his real estate license now, and trying to help sell the cottages.
However, the gals will need to pull together and utilize all their creative skills in order to survive the storms and surprises of life. They each must be strong and be able to always come up with a least One Good Thing!
PS This series reminds me a little of Schitt's Creek which I love, and cannot wait for Season 4! (watched every episode). Both are about having it all, losing it, and starting over in an entirely different direction. Humorous and heartwarming.
Love these ladies. This time around the gals have more challenges than usual and have not moved on to a new exciting project yet, dealing with things left over from the last book.
Even though this installment did not offer the same excitement as the others, I enjoyed it and again found Maddie to be my favorite character. However, also nice to see Bitsy realize her worth when having to do without money. A good example of the resilience of women when faced with challenges of life, mixed with humor.
My #OneGoodThing is being able to live in South Florida overlooking the water; work from home office in a T-shirt, leggings, and flip flops!
Highly recommend this talented Atlanta Southern Author and all the books in the series. A perfect beach read. As always love the Florida coastal setting and familiar places. Looking forward to seeing what is coming next for these four ladies!