Updated: Sep 15, 2022
I did something I don’t usually do before reading a book. I peeked at a few of the preliminary reviews. One word come up time and again: divisive. I can fully appreciate that word, both inside the context of the story itself, along with a reader’s opinion of it.
I was also instantly intrigued by the inevitable outcome that I assume was intentionally provided as a spoiler in the book synopsis. I can’t deny that my mind was partially focused on that little plot detail with every page I turned in this story. And I wonder if that simultaneously caused me to become distracted such that I didn’t devote my full attention to the characters’ stories at points throughout the book.
The opening of this book hooked me. The depiction of the California Coast in the 1980s took me back to my childhood. While I never visited the West Coast during that timeframe, the overall vibe of life during the 1980s was captured perfectly in my eyes.
I’ll voice my disappointment first. To me, the ending fell a bit flat for me. It was predictable in some ways and somewhat contrived in others. The number of characters introduced throughout the story was, to be honest, quite overwhelming. I couldn’t keep them all straight.
And perhaps my expectations for the ending were overinflated, because what I found most riveting about this novel, was what other authors typically call the muddy middle, that area of the story where things transition from one place to another for each character. These transitions often border on unremarkable, but I was mesmerized by each of the Riva family member’s stories, both in the present and past, as well as across generations. It was during these moments that I identified with each child and parent alike in compelling and authentic ways. And I think that buildup of momentum and power, like a wave along the Pacific Coast, came crashing against the shoreline with a seeming abruptness before I was done riding it.
At the heart of this story, I appreciate its underlying message: the importance of relationships and family, and how even when you might not share a last name or the same blood running through your veins, the idea of family, loyalty, and connection goes well beyond those superficial and societal cues that associate us with another human being. It’s the choices we make, both for our “family” and perhaps more importantly, ourselves, that define who we are and the footprint we leave for others to follow.
Dave’s Rating: ☕️☕️☕️
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