Friday, August 12, 2016

Book Review: "The Things We Wish Were True" by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

"And yet, Jencey understood, there were the things she wished were true, and there was what was actually true. She was learning that there was usually a great distance between the two.

Sycamore Glen, North Carolina is one of those small towns. You know, the ones where everyone knows everyone's business, where people remain entangled in each other's lives from childhood on, where secrets are hidden just out of sight. Bryte grew up in Sycamore Glen, pining for the boy her best friend dated, wanting a love and life to call her own, and years later, she has everything she wanted. But behind her happiness lies a secret, and the pressure to hide it may cause her to risk everything she holds dear.

It seemed that Jencey had everything she could want while growing up in Sycamore Glen. Yet one day she left without warning, without explanation, leaving those who loved and cared about her feeling angry, hurt, and betrayed, and forced to rebuild their lives without her. Years later she returns after her life is upended, and her reappearance causes fears to be reawakened, and ripples into other people's lives.

Zell is the neighborhood helper, always the one to bring food to a family dealing with a tragedy, lend support when it is needed, quietly observe what is going on around her. Yet she has her own secrets, things she hopes never come to light despite the fact that they might help someone else. And there is still things she isn't aware of.

One summer, a near tragedy occurs. It brings people together, threatens to tear others apart, and starts to gnaw away at the secrets everyone has hidden away. The courage and curiosity of one brave young girl is both what the town needs and what could potentially destroy relationships and lives.

If The Things We Wish Were True sounds a lot like a soap opera, it definitely has a soapy, melodramatic tone, and I don't mean that in a disparaging way. There's a lot of drama, both real and manufactured, and these people sure do have a lot of buried skeletons! But amidst the secrets and the fears are inherently good people caught up in circumstances they can't control, and the possibility of redemption and happiness where some might have feared there would be none.

I enjoyed this book, but then again, I always loved a good soapy novel every now and again. While some of the plot twists I saw coming pretty early on (and perhaps that's what was intended), Marybeth Mayhew Whalen threw in some surprises as well. At times this book reminded me of a less campy Desperate Housewives (more for the secrets than the mischief-making women) and at other times it reminded me a little of a Liane Moriarty novel, but it didn't try to steal style from anyone.

Whalen keeps you wondering what will become of her characters, whose names annoyed me but they themselves really didn't. This book feels like a good beach read, but it's just a plain good one.

Lake Union Publishing and Kindle First provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

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