I admit it. I requested this one based purely off the stunning cover. I have no shame, but do I have regret? Maybe a little. Unfortunately, as much as I wanted to love this book for superficial reasons, it did not come through for me.
Author: Sarah Painter
Genre: Historical Fiction • Paranormal • Magic Realism
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Brighton, 1938: Grace Kemp is pushed away by the family she has shamed. Rejected and afraid, she begins a new life as a nurse. But danger stalks the hospital too, and she’ll need to be on her guard to avoid falling into familiar traps. And then there are the things she sees…Strange portents that have a way of becoming real.
Eighty years later, Mina Morgan is brought to the same hospital after a near-fatal car crash. She is in terrible pain but recalls nothing. She’s not even sure whom to trust. Mina too sees things that others cannot, but now, in hospital, her visions are clearer than ever…
Two women, separated by decades, are drawn together by a shared space and a common need to salvage their lives.
I contemplated DNFing this book a few different times, but since I was given a copy for review, I felt I needed to press on. While I think the writing was decent and the concepts within this book had potential, the execution of the story was a bit of a mess.
What didn’t work for me…
The two separate storylines did not particularly work well together, making this book feel disjointed. Why did they not work together? There was no connection between the two storylines except an insignificant one… the fact that both stories take place years apart in the same hospital. The end. I kept waiting for the big reveal of how Mina and Grace would be connected, but the end of the book came without any type of link between them. What was the reasoning behind the dual storylines if there was no significant connection between the characters? Did I miss something?
I strongly disliked the main character in the present timeline, Mina. She did get slightly better as the book progressed, but only slightly. My aversion to her in the beginning actually made it really hard for me to want to pick this book up. I know that authors will often write characters who are more self absorbed or egocentric characters in the beginning to then develop that character to show a tremendous amount of personal growth, but that doesn’t really happen here. Mina sort of realizes she was a horrible person pre-accident, but aside from befriending a coworker the had previously ignored, Mina didn’t go through any real personal development. Was the author was attempting to write an “unreliable narrator” here? I didn’t get that vibe… Whatever the case, Mina didn’t really have any redeemable qualities.
Despite the unlikeable main character in the story taking place in the present, I preferred this story to the one taking place in the past. Actually, I think Mina’s story would have worked quite well as a thriller in and of itself without Grace’s story…. This was probably my favorite aspect to this book, the “thriller elements” occurring in Mina’s story. I really liked how the reader knows the big mystery surrounding Mina’s accident in the beginning while watching Mina try and sort things out. It really added to the tension as I often felt compelled to warn Mina.
Grace, the main character in the past timeline, is a more likeable character than Mina, however she wasn’t exactly developed which made her feel flat. Grace’s story overall felt a little busy and underdeveloped. It felt like one bad thing after the other. I think this is mainly due to the fact that Mina’s story takes up a good chunk of the book, so there was not enough attention given to Grace’s plotline.
Another aspect that didn’t work for me in this one was the paranormal/supernatural elements. Could they have worked? Yes, BUT there was no point to them… they didn’t really enhance the story in any way. The randomness of these elements made the story feel a bit odd to me. I am all for some magic realism, but it has to be well done and make sense within the story.
To sum up what didn’t work for me:
• no distinct connection between the two storylines/characters
• paranormal/supernatural elements felt odd and didn’t work well within the context of the story
• Mina was hard to connect with and didn’t have any redeeming qualities
• Needed more development in Grace’s storyline
Her debut novel, The Language of Spells, became a Kindle bestseller. The follow-up, The Secrets of Ghosts and a prequel novella, The Garden of Magic, are available now.
Sarah lives in rural Scotland with her family and Zelda Kitzgerald, a grey tabby who likes to sit on her hands while she types.
She drinks too much tea, loves the work of Joss Whedon, and is the proud owner of a writing shed.