Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Book Review: If Only I Could Tell You

When this book came in the mail I fell in love with it immediately because this cover is gorgeous, but I didn't remember what it was about. Once I read the blurb I remembered exactly why I wanted this book and I am so glad I was able to be on this tour because this book had me hooked from page one.

If Only I Could Tell You - Hannah Beckerman

Audrey knows that life is filled with ups and downs, but she can’t help feeling like she’s been dealt more than her fair share as she’s watched her family come undone over the years. Her dream as a mother had been for her daughters, Jess and Lily, to be as close as only sisters can be. But now as adults, they no longer speak to each other, and Audrey’s two teenage granddaughters have never met. Even more upsetting is the fact that Audrey has no idea how to fix her family as she wonders if they will ever be whole again.

If only Audrey had known three decades ago that a secret could have the power to split her family in two, but ironically, also keep them linked. And when hostilities threaten to spiral out of control, a devastating choice that was made so many years ago is about to be revealed, testing once and for all Audrey and those she loves.

Is it too late for one broken family to heal and find their way back to each other…?

A beautiful novel of mothers and daughters, the bonds of family, and the secrets that can sometimes divide us yet also bring us together, If Only I Could Tell You will remain on your mind long after the last page is turned.

The quick and dirty of this book is Audrey (Lily and Jess's mom) has cancer. She's very clearly dying, she's refusing treatment and her daughters don't know why and she is gone to live with Jess and her daughter, Mia. Jess hasn't spoke with her sister Lily in years and it isn't just a "I don't like her" thing, it is very clearly an intense hate towards her sister except only Jess knows why and this book is the quest of Audrey putting the past, and whatever issues they have, behind them so when she passes she knows her family, what's left of it, are together.

Have you ever read a book where your heart breaks in every chapter? No? Well you're about to. I know half of you are saying, "I don't like reading books that make me sad!" and I get that, but this book is so important. Little story- when I was 20 I got my first job post college working a program assistant for a senior volunteer program. I knew right away I was going to love it. Within five months my boss came to my desk and told me to come on, grab my jacket and purse, we're going to a funeral.

Taken aback, I didn't know who had passed away and to be honest, I had never been to a funeral before so I wasn't sure what to do. So I grabbed my things and my boss drove us straight to a cemetery and there were two people standing over a patch of dirt. One was a non denominational pastor and one was an older woman who was the across the hall neighbor of the woman in the ground, who was previously a volunteer of ours before I had started. Not one family member was there and I thought it was so strange- who dies alone? Well this woman did. Apparently years ago (like 30+) she had a falling out with her daughter and they stopped talking. She never got to see her grandchildren grow up, or know that she had great grandchildren. After the rather short service we all left and it really bothered me. I felt like we should have called her daughter, or someone, surely someone would have wanted to come, and my boss just looked at me and said, "You're young, but this is a lesson that nothing is worth it." It has stuck with me all of this time and no matter how angry or hurt I am at a family member, I think of that volunteer.

But back to this book. It's really what happens here- an event happens and one daughter isn't sure what she saw but given the events of the rest of the day she puts two and two together and the anger she feels is unprecedented. Because not only are the events that day bad enough, but a few weeks later, there is a second event that she is SURE is tied to the first one so now she's REALLY mad. The book alternates between Jess, Audrey, and Lily's point of view and also has flash backs from the past as the story unravels and you get the big secret and everything starts clicking in place.

If I have to give a critique? I wish the secret came out a lot sooner. I understand why it came when it did but I felt like it could have been bumped up a little so we could get an epilogue. If ever there was a book that should have an epilogue, it's this one. I want a year later. Something. There are like three things that are minor but I would have liked to see them have some kind of conclusion or an idea of how it might end.

You also need to go into this knowing that Jess and Lily aren't great characters. I didn't like Jess off the bat and I felt like she was probably exaggerating the entire thing (and I can't tell you if that's true or not), and Lily was cold but I started liking her and feeling sorry for her a lot sooner than I did Jess. It wasn't until damn near the very end where I was like, "OK- Jess is alright", I don't know what it was necessarily about her I didn't like. Audrey... I really felt bad for Audrey. I liked her straight away and I feel like she was probably like so many women in the 50's and 60's. They grow up with goals only to end up pregnant, getting married, and quickly your life becomes about raising this family- all of your aspirations fade away. It's only until the end of her life that she takes the time to regret some choices. There is a passage on page 141 that really resonated with me personally:
"I had it all worked out: I'd get someone to look after the baby while I was at lectures and I'd study in the evenings and at weekends when Edward wasn't at work. The plan was so clear and simple in my head, yet whenever I thought about actually writing the letter, I felt completely paralyzed. When I look back now, all I can is, What on earth stopped me? Why didn't I at least try? And however many times I ask myself that question, there's only ever one answer I can offer in response. Because I was scared. It's as simple as that."
That hit home. Of all the reasons I never went to a four year college to become a teacher or get an English degree, it was always fear. Getting a four year degree was always the plan, always the dream and I just never did it because I was scared to fail. I didn't think I could do it. It's out of reach now and I'm moved past it, and my new goal is to finish my book and get it published but I feel that same fear creeping up my neck. So when I read that passage I felt like, FINALLY!!! It's an explanation that makes sense and is communicated how I mean it.

I also have to tell you that while my heart broke in different ways, for different characters, the entire way.... the ending. Oh my god the ending. I was at Olivia's dance class reading this and full on sobbing in my car. Sobbing, you guys. It was equal parts happiness and sadness, which makes no sense unless you read this. This book is so great. 5 stars.

You can find this book in the HarperCollins store, which always has deals and coupons. You can also find it at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

A gigantic thank you to William Morrow, Hannah Beckerman, and TLC Book Tours for sending me my copy! This post contains affiliate links. 


Anthea said...

Okay I'm adding this to my TBR list and making a note to stock up on tissues before reading. I have read books that make ones heart break in certain chapters and while they aren't 'easy reading' the story stays with one long after the book is finished. Thanks for recommendation.

Shooting Stars Mag said...

Oh gosh, this sounds intense and emotional. I love books like that though, so I need to read this one. Thanks for that story about the funeral -- so sad that hardly anyone was there, and no family. It's true, not much is worth it to ignore certain people in your life.


mypixieblog said...

Okay I’m totally adding this book to my must read shelf. Thanks so much for the introduction!! And omg, What a valuable lesson you learned so young about the fragility off life and the importance of family. That must be so sad to die and not have anyone attend the funeral :(

Beth (Coffee Until Cocktails) said...

I am definitely going to be reading this. Your review has me wanting to get on Amazon right now and order it. Wow. It seriously sounds amazing. Thank you for sharing it!