My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned--from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren--an enigmatic artist and single mother--who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town--and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.
I found this book thanks to the screen adaption playing on Hulu. Yes. I was at the 70% listening mark before the story truly picked up. In fairness, the same thing happened with the series. There was so much time spent on character building, including the town of Shaker, which is a primary character in its own right, that it left little time left for the purpose (the plot) of the story.
This story brings up topics that are as socially relevant today as they were in the 80s i.e. race, infertility, abortion, teen sex and it's consequences and everyday struggles for families regardless of class. No one is perfect, even when they appear to be on the outside.
I think the author's handling of such heavy topics, including unwanted pregnancies and spousal shortcomings, was written well for the book's intended audience which was young adult.
While this story was an extremely slow build, I'm glad I stuck with it even though the odd ending left me with numerous questions. I do hope the author intends to answer all of the open plot holes at some point. The audio production was well done and the narrator, Jennifer Lim, did an excellent job with the material. I recommend this to young adult readers as it may resonate loudly with them
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