Prather’s Pick: Kristin Hannah offers novel about family
Kristin Hannah, author of “The Things We Do for Love” (this week’s featured novel), has written 23 novels and is a #1 New York Times bestselling author.
What stands out for me about this novel is the way the author has crafted the characters. It’s almost as if they embrace the reader. At the center of the novel is the DeSaria family, a loud, always-has-something-to-say, caring family that, while certainly not without faults, is forgiving.
The reader meets the family right away, because that’s where Angie, the lead character of the novel, and her husband Conlan are headed — to West End, Angie’s childhood home which has stood on Maple Drive for 40 years.
Angie is one of the DeSaria daughters; the other two are Mira and Livvy. Mama and these two daughters operate DeSaria’s Restaurant, Papa’s pride and joy. Papa has passed on, but Mama seems to be able to talk with him. It’s always, “Papa says …”
Angie never learned to cook — nor cared to. Papa, who spoiled Angie mercilessly, was pleased she learned to do something with her head. Angie is a copywriter.
Things are strained between Conlan and Angie. Her sisters could have children, but Angie has not been so blessed. She has been able to conceive three children but lost two in miscarriage, and one daughter, Sophia, lived only a few days. Angie and Conlan have even tried adoption, bringing a pregnant teenager into their home, but in the end, Sarah Dekker decided to keep her baby.
When they arrive at the DeSaria home, Angie and Conlan find it as usual — rattling with noise, children running everywhere, loud voices, and lots and lots of laughter. In the kitchen, “a place that’s safe and warm and well-loved,” Mama, Livvy, and Mira are cooking up a storm, prompting Conlan to observe, “… making ten thousand cannoli for twenty people.”
The trip home is hard for Angie. Because of all the broken dreams, Angie and Conlan have grown too far apart. They decide to divorce. One day when Angie is finishing the packing to leave their home, Mama and the sisters arrive with a picnic basket of food and a bottle of wine. They tell Angie they’re thinking of selling the restaurant because business is bad. In the end Angie, decides to move back home and help out; after all, she helped put one restaurant back in business. So it’s decided. She will live in the family beach cottage.
In another part of West End, 17-year-old Lauren Ribido lives in a run-down apartment building with her mother (who isn’t such a warm character). Lauren is still in high school, dates David, and hopes to go to college one day. Meanwhile, her mother is no help, spending what money she gets on booze and cigarettes. She brings one guy after another home. Finally, she just leaves Lauren.
Lauren meets Angie, and before long, she has a job waitressing at DeSaria’s Restaurant, but the job is more than that — she becomes part of the family.
There’s a lot more to this easy-to-read, good-feeling novel. The book I purchased is a 2019 Ballantine books trade paperback. The novel’s first copyright was in 2004, and it costs about $17 in paperback.
Stories enrich our lives. We tell them, listen to them, read them, repeat them, write them, watch them on TV, enjoy them in theaters. Stories teach us, entertain us, make us laugh, ease our social situations, and cement our friendships.