Sometimes you have to break a family to fix it.
From New York Times bestselling author Kristan Higgins, a new novel examining a family at the breaking point in all its messy, difficult, wonderful complexity.
(From the book blurb)
I really enjoy books that focus on complex family dynamics and I also wanted to read something by Kristan Higgins, who is a new author for me (despite the fact that this is her twentieth book). Always the Last to Know was everything it promised to be and more. Emotional, touching, realistic, with well-drawn, but flawed characters.
We meet Sadie Frost, an artist and a schoolteacher in New York, as she is contemplating proposing to her long term, perfect on paper, but somehow not quite right boyfriend. Her mother Barb is thinking about giving divorce papers to John, her husband of almost fifty years. Barb and John’s eldest daughter Juliet, a successful architect and a perfect mother of two daughters, is hiding in a closet trying to cope with a panic attack. And John… John has just had a massive stroke with brain hemorrhage and a concussion and is on his way to the hospital. As the family are waiting for John to come out of surgery, Barb reads some messages on his phone that shock her and change her whole perspective on what was happening in her marriage. With John needing round-the-clock care, Sadie moves back to their little town in Connecticut and, among other things, has to face her first love and first heartbreak Noah.
Everybody in this family has their own struggles and dramas. The author’s choice of using alternating POVs of Barb, Sadie and Juliet with a few chapters from John does a wonderful job of letting the reader see how the family and its members came to be the way they are and how they are developing in the story. Kristan Higgins is a master of character building with every one having their own unique voice and personality.
The issues raised in the book felt realistic. Spouses dealing with infertility in different ways, parents finding it easier to relate to one child than the other (partly because their character is more similar to their own), feeling that you love somebody deeply, but are not able to give them what they want from life… The more I read, the more I was invested in this family, which somehow did and didn’t resemble my own and many other families I know. Every family has its own ups and downs, happy, tender moments and its own secrets.The book is well-written and easy to read, especially when the pace picks up somewhat in the second half.
Entertaining, perhaps a bit predictable, but still heartwarming, Always the Last to Know has a satisfying ending and an important message of accepting that life and families can be unpredictable and messy, but it is always worth focusing on love, people you care about and things that bring you joy and happiness.
Thank you to Edelweiss and Berkley for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.