Author: Luanne Rice
Publisher: Viking, Penguin Group
Published: July 2nd 2013
Pages: 304 pages.
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Source: e-Arc from publisher via Netgalley
In the five years since Julia visited her aunt and uncle's home in Malibu, her life has been turned upside down by her daughter's death. She expects to find nothing more than peace and solitude as she house-sits with her only dog, Bonnie, for company. But she finds herself drawn to the handsome man who oversees the lemon orchard. Roberto expertly tends the trees, using the money to support his extended Mexican family. What connection could these two people share? The answer comes as Roberto reveals the heart breaking story of his loss - a pain Julia knows only too well, but for one striking difference: Roberto's daughter was lost but never found. And despite the odds he cannot bear to give up hope.My thoughts:
Luanne Rice certainly knows how to write in such a way that the characters reach into the heart of the reader and pull on heartstrings. It is beautifully written, has such wonderful characters and the plot kept me fully engaged to the end. Now I sit, with some sadness as the story ends, yet feeling enriched as Luanne Rice took me to places I had never been before.
This is essentially a love story. Yes, there is a romantic love story, but really it is a bigger love story. The love of parent for child, and child for parent. The love of ordinary people who see injustice and quietly do something to right the wrongs - and in so doing tug at harder hearts. It is also the love for family. It is a story of compassion, courage and hope.
To me it was a story of contrasts. The contrast of wealth and poverty, American and Mexican, compassion and cruelty, intimate and unconditional love and love that is not willing to be fully open and trusting of another.
Julia and Roberto are drawn together as they have both experienced the loss of a child. The lengths they are prepared to go to grow in their love tugged at my heart. So many other wonderful characters - Jack who has worked for many years as an immigration officer on the border hunting illegal immigrants, and his wonderful wife Louella. Lion, an elderly actor, so human and while he has chosen his way I could not help but feel for him. Rosa the daughter of Roberto, so resilient and courageous, too young to have to face the cruelties of the desert. And I just have to mention Bonnie, the dog who just adds that touch of love of human for animal and animal for human.
Living in a completely different part of the world to where this story is set, I had not realised the plight of the Mexican people and the many lives lost as they have tried to cross into America and the hope of a better life. At times I sat reading and frowning with consternation. Sometimes in my life I have been turned off by people who spout social justice. A story well told, as this one is, far surpasses any social justice person on a soap box.
I loved the settings - the sensory details that Luanne Rice includes, they enabled me to visualise the places, smell the smells and feel the heat. This book as it tells the story has a number of flashbacks. Normally I dislike them, however in this book Luanne Rice seamlessly integrates them, it is like this is exactly what is needed at this point.
This story will linger with me for a long while. I know that at some time in the future I intend to use a credit at Audible and listen to the audio of the story and savour it all over again.