Saturday, July 30, 2011

Proof of Heaven

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By Mary Curran Hackett





This very special novel is inspired by a personal event that the author experienced. After writing about it, she left it untouched for quite some time. Upon coming across it later, she was inspired to turn it into this book.

The child at the heart of this novel is Colm. He is a very seriously ill little boy, who is very unsure about the hereafter in spite of his mother’s faith. To make things more difficult for him, he has a desire to reunite with the father who remains absent from his life.

 Mary Curran Hackett draws upon her own experiences and beliefs in writing this heartfelt and emotionally driven book. Dealing with questions of life and death, and health and illness, she tries to make sense of it all. At the very heart of the matter is simple faith.

The book does not preach or try to persuade you to believe in anything. It tells the story of a mother and her child. It presents very real issues, while leaving the reader room to decide for themselves what they believe.

Ultimately, this is a very special novel that handles serious life and death situations with both sensitivity and respect. Mary Curran Hackett and her book are to be admired and appreciated.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Art of Saying Goodbye

The Art of Saying Goodbye: A Novel




By Ellyn Bache


This is a special book of the power of female friendship. It is so deep and moving that it captivates you immediately, and stays with you after you close the book. There are many aspects, many facets to it. Each woman has her own story, yet they come together in surprisingly strong ways.

The friendships between these women are credible and full of feeling. One cannot help but enjoy the personalities and bonds of these women. They are likable, well-developed characters. Along with the love and the friendship, there are tears as memories and revelations are revealed. This is indeed what friendship is all about.

Ellyn Bache gives us women’s fiction as it is supposed to be: warm, meaningful, and well written.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Following Atticus

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By Tom Ryan


Atticus M. Finch is one very special little dog. He has taken many adventures with his lucky owner, author Tom Ryan. This book follows their adventures and their relationship, including hiking up ninety-six snow peaks in ninety days. To add to the challenge, it was winter, creating a trek of bitterly cold, snow-filled miles.

As a journalist, Tom Ryan writes of the challenges and what essentially became a spiritual journey between man and dog. They bonded through a typical puppyhood of training, establishing a relationship of trust. Then they took it to the next level.

Having grown up among the White Mountains of New Hampshire climbing the 48 peak range, Tom was inspired to do this with Atticus. When this becomes a transforming experience for Tom and Atticus, they repeat the feat as a fundraiser for cancer.

Throughout the book are memories and recollections of Tom Ryan’s difficult youth with his father. His relationship with Atticus and the journey they take together not only bonds them, but becomes a cathartic process for Tom. Atticus and his open, accepting nature becomes the catalyst for Tom’s own personal journey finding forgiveness.

Yes…our pets do that.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Maisie Grace Memories

                
     Maisie Grace            
    
You just know when it is love. When I first saw Maisie she was two days old. She was one of seven puppies, but I knew
she was “the one”. I told the breeder, “Yes, this one.” The breeder tried to convince me that there were six others, and it was much too early to choose, to “know”. She wasn’t sure which she planned to keep for the show ring, either, she said. “No; I have to have her, this little dark blue one.” The breeder went on how there were others the “prettier” blue, the “silver blue, sky blue”.  “Nope.”, I said. “This one is for me”.

I went back every week or two and talked to the breeder every couple of days. I had to convince her that that dark blue Sheltie puppy was for me. I didn’t want the tri-coloured ones. I had recently “lost” my tri-coloured Sheltie, Skeeter. I did not want to compare the new puppy with Skeeter, who had been my heart. But I just knew this little dark blue one was “the one”, anyway.

As time went by, we realized she had one blue eye. Well that made her even more special, though the breeder said she felt it was unnerving. Okay, so that made her mine…right?

Then as the puppy, the smallest blue female, took over the litter, becoming the alpha-puppy, I was even surer. I love an alpha-dog. I love the challenge, the strength, and the intelligence. Yes, she was the one for me. I knew it.

Finally, after six weeks, the breeder called and said, “She is yours. You’re right. You have convinced me. Come get her next week.” I named her Maisie, and she came home at seven weeks of age. We bonded immediately, strong and fast. I taught her; she taught me. We were inseparable.

At six months, her sister, the “sky blue” one came out of the show ring after being attacked by another dog. It scared her too badly. Wiley came to us for rehabilitation…and stayed for the next 15 years. Wiley became Bill’s dog; Maisie was mine. We had “His & Hers” Shelties.
                                  
                Wiley

For almost 16 years we had “The Girls”. Their love was unconditional for each other and for us. Maisie took care of her sister like a mother hen. Maisie and Wiley were polar opposites, but a pair nonetheless.

Maisie had intelligence beyond compare. Her intuition was keen and accurate. I could think something and she knew. She went everywhere with us. She was not only accepted, but welcomed. She had better manners than most people.

Losing her was one of the most painful things I have experienced. It has been over a year, and she remains conspicuous in her absence. She is still with me every hour of every day. And she always will be.

                                      
             Maisie
27 July 1994- 22 March 2010

You Know When the Men Are Gone



By Siobhan Fallon


This debut novel gives an honest glimpse into the possible lives and situations of military families. Author Siobhan Fallon knows, as she is a military wife. Her book, You Know When the Men Are Gone is based on her experiences living in Fort Hood, Texas, while her husband, an Army Major served two tours of duty in Iraq.

This book is a collection of stories involving the lives of those left behind, here at home, while their loved ones are gone off to war. We see what their spouses, families, do in their absence, including how, and with whom, they spend their time. We experience the seeming holding pattern they feel they are in.

Loneliness is the obvious common thread in these stories. We see how the women come together to keep each other busy, to pick up the slack left in time’s void. They help each other in keeping memories of spouses active with meetings, making group care packages, supporting the spouses gone to war, and each other left at home.

While this is a novel, it is based on the reality of the lives of our own military families. We see how those gone to war are affected and need our support, our care. Siobhan Fallon makes us think of those left here, among us. They are in need of our support and care.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"Tuesday Spotlight"

I want to invite you all over to visit my friend  Brenda Youngerman  on her blog "Fiction With a Purpose". She has a weekly feature that she calls "Spotlight". Today she has honoured me with her Spotlight!

Please visit her blog, not just because of me, but because I think you will enjoy her and adore her as much as I do!

Thank you, Brenda. You are awesome!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Welcome to Utopia

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By Karen Valby


Welcome to Utopia is an amazing American story. It is the story of a town and its people striving to survive in today’s world, while clinging to the ways of the past, the things that made it what and who it is.

At the heart of the book are four residents of Utopia, Texas: Colter, the son of a real cowboy, who is not one, himself; Kathy, a waitress with three sons gone off to war; Ralph, the retired general store owner; and Kelli, a black rock singer, who also happens to be one of the few black Utopians.

Utopia is all that we think of as “Small Town America”, but it struggles against itself to stay that way, while surviving and wanting to thrive. Almost a contradiction of itself, Utopia is true to itself, which makes you love it. Your heart goes out to the people of Utopia, to make it, to remain true, to survive. But your heart breaks for them as they struggle to be real, to be all that they know is right.

Welcome to Utopia made me feel what its people felt. I wanted life to be good for the people there. I felt I knew them, and felt honoured to have visited them in their hometown.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Things We Didn't Say

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By Kristina Riggle




This is the story of a contemporary family in all of its pain and insecurities.

It is the father who tries to be the responsible, stable parent. He is there for his children, no matter the chaos that surrounds them. And there is plenty of chaos: divorce, alcoholism, mental illness to name only a few.

The ex-wife and mother of the children, two teens and an adolescent, is a selfish, self-absorbed woman. She is unwilling to accept responsibility or blame of any sort.

Casey, the girlfriend, is insecure which makes her irresponsible in her own right. Though she has love to offer and good intentions, she is weak.

The children are struggling with the issues that come with youth: school, friends, family, but also they are forced to deal with the issues of the adults in their lives.

As the title alludes, sometimes it is the things we don’t say that affect us the most. Communication is everything. The things that people say often stay with us, but so do the things that never get said.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Someone Will Be With You Shortly

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Notes from a Perfectly Imperfect Life


By Lisa Kogan


Lisa Kogan’s observations on being a woman, on motherhood, and life in general are funny, honest and I think relatable, for most women today. The essays have thought and purpose, as well as humor.

Lisa tells her story in bits and pieces, with a sharp, keen wit. She tells of her life in New York, from dating, working, motherhood, and even personal tales such as health issues.
There is even a bit of politics that can be taken however the reader chooses.

The final product is a funny, charming little memoir of humorist essays.



Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Pie Town

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By Lynne Hinton


Based on an actual place, Lynne Hinton creates another small town of wonderful characters that live in a unique area of the South-Western United States.

Pie Town is a small desert town inhabited by a variety of people and cultures: Anglo, Hispanic and Native American. They live and support each other as community and as family, as well.

Longtime residents, being close and very traditional, find it hard to accept and adapt to a new priest. In fact, takes a little handicapped boy to convince the town to accept Father Morris. Inevitably a tragedy strikes, compromising the calm, close community with pointing fingers and placing blame.

Lynne Hinton does well to pull the three cultures in Pie Town together to present a portrait of small town New Mexico. It is both an enjoyable and entertaining novel.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Born Under a Lucky Moon

Born Under a Lucky Moon: A Novel 
By Dana Precious



Written in chapters from past to present, back and forth, Jeannie Thompson tells her story…and quite a story it is. Her large family in Michigan is a close, albeit wild, bunch of characters. However, they always pull together for Jeannie and each other in all of life’s craziness.

With a good career, Jeannie also finds a good man. Afraid to introduce him to her quirky family, out of fear they may overwhelm him, she tries to avoid it. She really need not worry, though. Their zest for life, easy way of dealing with things, and their ability to be true to themselves make them, and Jeannie, what and who a family should be. And that is what matters.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Sometimes I Feel Like a Nut

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Essays and Observations


By Jill Kargman


Jill Kargman has put together a collection of very funny and unique essays. Her topics of observations range from family and motherhood to things in her basic daily life.

Admittedly, Jill has a signature slang-style of speaking/writing. However, she is so entertaining that you can overlook it. She packs quite a bit of humor into a small and easily readable book.

This is a book that you will read and probably pass along to a BFF for a chuckle, as well. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Found

Found: A Memoir


By Jennifer Lauck


Jennifer Lauck is an accomplished writer and a gifted human being. She proved herself as a writer in her previous books, including Blackbird and Still Waters. She has also proven herself as an extraordinary human being and woman. In addition to writing her brave, honest, and revealing memoirs, she has been a speaker, teacher, and investigative reporter.

Jennifer uses all of her gifts again, in this moving and inspirational memoir: Found. Here, she takes us on her journey in search of her birth mother. Feeling incomplete, Jennifer feels the need to find her to become a whole person. She feels the need to come to terms with her past she must come to terms with her birth mother. Still struggling to belong, to fit in, to find peace within herself she must make peace with her past, with the life she lost.

Jennifer spent most of her life trying to find herself. She built her own world, forged her own way in it, and created her own identity. You have to respect that. In her we find courage, intelligence, and inspiration. She is an amazing woman with much to offer and much to be proud of.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Time Out

Storms came through the "Chain of Lakes" again. Wind gusts were up to 80MPH. Power lines fell, trees came down, damage was extensive. Fortunately, our property remained intact, including Dewey's birdhouse.

We did lose our Internet connection, however. So I was forced to spend the day reading. It made me think, too. We are so dependent on "power": our TV, phones, computers, various devices, all powered by something other than our own selves (like a good old fashioned tangible paper book). I really must admit this includes me!

I often feel guilty that I don't keep up with my Facebook page. Some people wonder what happened to me! I do try to keep up with my blog though, and am very proud of it. I have many upcoming book reviews and additions to my pages.

I want to take the time to thank my beautiful friend Andrea: for her artwork, help, support, and constant friendship. She is amazing!

I also want to thank my followers, every one of you, from the bottom of my heart. Thank you.

Home to Woefield

Home to Woefield: A Novel


By Susan Juby


When Prudence Burns inherits Woefield Farm she is full of hopes and dreams. She really has no idea what she is in for. What she finds is a farm that is aptly named. Next she finds people who definitely fit right in. This is a colorful and quirky cast of characters, to be sure. The story is told by these characters, each from their unique viewpoint.

Prudence is a woman who brings her ideals with her to Woefield Farm. She wants to be an honest to goodness, back-to-basics farmer. She has great plans for herself and the farm.

Seth is a troubled young man whom Prudence hires as a handyman. A high school drop-out, he fancies himself to be a writer. What he is really, is a rebellious kid who lacks self discipline.

Earl is the real down-to-earth guy. The strong silent type, he knows his stuff and gets things done.

Then there is little eleven year old Sarah, a girl on a mission. She has chickens that need housing. Prudence agrees to keep them on Woefield Farm. But not only do the chickens find a place there, so does Sarah.

In fact, this zany group all come together on an entertaining journey, all finding a place, a home of sorts at Woefield Farm. This is a very pleasurable and satisfying read.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Dewey's Birdhouse

                                          


Dewey’s Birdhouse


I'm not the one with the green thumb. That would be Bill. If it has fur and/or a pulse, I'm good. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy plants, especially flowers. I'm pretty good with my hanging planters every summer, my angel-wing begonias, and my mum garden does well. I'm just much better with critters. I get critters; we connect.

I was skeptical when the locust tree popped up in the far corner of the back yard. I didn't like the thorns. I was sure we could find a "better" tree. I called it a scrub tree. Yet Bill took to it immediately. His green thumb was itching to get it growing. He said it was perfect, meant to be there, he had wanted a tree for that spot. So there it was: a locust tree that just moved itself in. Just like all of the critters we rescue, Bill rescues plants.

I was skeptical. It took awhile to convince me. However, when the critters and birds took to it, I accepted that it was part of our yard. Suddenly there were birds in it! Orioles would sit there, as they migrated through to and from the birdbath. Woodpeckers, Nuthatches and Brown Creepers would skitter up and down the tree. Cardinals and Blue Jays could be seen daily in the locust tree. Wren would sit there and sing their little hearts out! It had a purpose now; if the birds loved it, so could I. 

We finally had the perfect place for Dewey's birdhouse. There had never seemed the "right" place before. It just didn't seem appropriate to put it out in the open, unsheltered. The cedars and pines seemed to attract the wrong birds for this little house. So, we mounted Dewey's birdhouse on the fence post, next to the locust tree. We hoped the wren would like it.

The wren moved in immediately. We were thrilled! Then the tornado came through, taking down several trees, and half of our fence. The house was not damaged, but the post with the birdhouse hung loose. By the time the fence was repaired, the wrens had understandably abandoned it.

It took a year, but this spring when nesting season began we watched Dewey's birdhouse with much anticipation and hope. One morning we heard the wren singing in the locust tree. By noon, they were filling the birdhouse with twigs and bedding.

And the next day a storm hit, taking the adjoining section of fence with it. I felt devastated, only imagining what the wren thought! I knew there was no family in the birdhouse yet, but figured they would never trust it again. I feared Dewey's birdhouse would remain abandoned forever now. 

The fence was fixed, but the wren had moved on. I could hear the wren, as they nested in neighbor's trees. I would see them sitting on nearby trees, coming and going happily. But Dewey's birdhouse sat empty, abandoned. It made me sad. I imagined it made Dewey sad, too.

One day recently, I noticed the wren sitting in the locust tree, singing his little heart out. Then I noticed twigs and grass sticking out of the birdhouse. I was hopeful, but cautious. I was afraid to get too excited yet.

When Bill was out doing weekly yard work this weekend, he saw a little bird's face peeking out of Dewey's birdhouse. In the locust tree, a wren was singing its song loudly and heartily. The wrens were back! They had moved into Dewey's birdhouse!

Our hearts are full of joy! We are sure Dewey is, too. She was all about loving and sharing, offering help to whoever needed it. She wanted everyone to be happy, even animals. 

Dewey's legacy is just that: love, giving from the heart, unselfishly. Her spirit lives on.

For Dewey, with love: 1987-1996, forever in our hearts.





Irma Voth

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By Miriam Toews




Miriam Toews is a gifted writer. She has a way of taking broken lives, broken characters, and treating them with dignity and sensitivity. This holds true for Irma Voth.

Irma is a Mennonite who moves from Canada to New Mexico with her family. In New Mexico, Irma meets and marries a Mexican man. Her family disapproves, but allows them to live and farm a parcel of the family land.

The cultures are too different. While Irma is committed to her marriage, her husband is not. He has other things that he is into, including illegal dealings. He ends up leaving Irma alone to make her own way in the world. Being true to herself has caused Irma much pain and unhappiness. She also feels she has let loved ones down.

Irma Voth’s redemption is in finding a place for herself in the world, and usefulness for the gifts she has. In doing this, she is able to not only find herself but to forgive herself, as well.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Don't Breathe a Word

Don't Breathe a Word: A Novel
By Jennifer McMahon


Jennifer McMahon has become a master of suspense. Her stories are unique and intense. In that regard, this one is no different.

Before Lisa disappears, at age 12, she tells her younger brother Sam a fairy tale where she is the Queen of the Fairies.  He never believed in fairies but remembers this, and her disappearance, as he grows into a practical solid young man.

Now grown, Sam and his girlfriend Phoebe, receive a strange call that leads to odd events. Phoebe grows increasingly concerned, while Sam is confused. He begins to question everything he thought he knew. Suddenly he is forced to reckon with a promise he made long ago, as it comes back to haunt him.

In alternating chapters, we are told this story by Lisa, fifteen years ago, and Phoebe in present day. It is a story of mixed suspense, fantasy, and psychological thriller. It will keep you guessing and wondering. When all is said and done, the book is a bit disturbing and unnerving, which I believe it is meant to be.

Friday, July 8, 2011

This Life is in Your Hands

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One Dream, Sixty Acres and a Family Undone

By Melissa Coleman


To say this book is a beautifully written memoir does not do it justice. Melissa Coleman tells the story of her parents and what moved them not to be hippies, but to be true back-to-nature farmers. They were not interested in the drug culture, altering their minds, or a commune way of life. They wanted only to provide a natural, simple, down to earth life for themselves and their family.

Following the example, of Helen and Scott Nearing, authors of Living the Good Life, Eliot and Sue Coleman forged out a sixty acre farm on coastal Maine. It is there they built their home, and then had first Melissa and later her sister, Heidi.

Melissa tells the story of her family, their farm and the simpler way of life they embraced. She writes of a childhood full of eating wild blueberries, running naked in the rain, making homemade bread, chopping wood and gathering seaweed. It is a full and happy life for the Coleman’s.

There comes a point though, when Melissa’s parent’s relationship is strained and pulled apart by outside influences and stresses. Not long after, the sudden tragic death of her three year old sister tears the family and all that it was, all that it stood for apart, leaving only broken dreams in its wake. Melissa is left to neighbors as her family disintegrates.

This book is Melissa Coleman’s search to sort through her families dreams, to make sense of what happened and why, how such beauty could have gone so awry. She looks to answer how one can find forgiveness when there is no actual blame. Truly, a thread of wisdom winds throughout her book, as she teaches us the price of sacrifice and the value of forgiveness.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

An Accidental Mother

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By Katherine Anne Kindred


When Kate Kindred fell in love with Jim, she did not plan on falling in love with his little boy, too. Kate had planned on a childless life. But life and love don’t always fit into plans the way one imagines.

Jim had custody of little two year old Michael. A year earlier Jim had received a call informing him that Michael’s mother had lost custody of him. Jim had not even known of Michael’s existence, but was now awarded full custody. In addition to Michael, Jim had joint custody of a little girl, Elizabeth. His marriage to her mother had recently ended.

But this book is about Kate and her very special relationship with Michael. For six years Kate was Michael’s mother, in every way that matters, and Michael was Kate’s little boy in all of the same wonderful ways.

In “An Accidental Mother” Kate shares her special moments, even illustrating them with notes Michael wrote and pictures that he drew for her. She shares the joys and sorrows of raising someone else’s child. Sadly, that is her ultimate sorrow. When her relationship with Jim ends, Kate loses Michael, too.

This is a very poignant, touching memoir about a very special relationship. My heart goes out to Kate, and to Michael.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl

I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl: A Memoir


By Kelle Groom


Everyone has a story to tell. Kelle Groom goes beyond that. She tells a tragic story in painful increments of beautiful prose. The result is an amazing book by a very special woman.

At the very early age of 15, Kelle finds alcohol as a way to express her. She loses herself to it, not realizing it until it is too late. Already an alcoholic, she has a baby at the age of nineteen. Her family supports her, as her aunt adopts the infant. Adding more sorrow to Kelle’s painful life, the baby is diagnosed at nine months with leukemia, and dies at 14 months of age. Kelle loses him twice.

Already out of control, Kelle is in a freefall downward spiral, fast on her way to self- destruction. It takes the real desire to stop drinking and the connection with the right people who can actually help Kelle attain sobriety.

This is a unique story on many levels, all heart-rending, all gut wrenching. But at the very heart of this book is Kelle the mother, who survived it all, who needed acceptance and forgiveness ultimately from herself.

She did survive, and she found the courage to share her story. She gives hope a new voice. You cannot read this book and not be somehow changed by it.








Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Year We Left Home

Summer Reading 2011




By Jean Thompson


This is a complex story, spanning thirty years in the life of a Midwestern family. We are taken through events in their lives collectively and individually, yet each is personal.

Events open with the Vietnam War in progress, and span through the War in the Middle East (Iraq and Afghanistan). This has effects on the characters throughout the book.

There are many events that we can all relate to, from graduations, weddings, economic struggles, the trials of youth and independence, age and resignation. There are triumphs and tragedies, decisions and consequences. Each event impacts each character in seen and unseen ways.

The characters are very honest in their roles. They are true to themselves and their interactions are sincere. This epic family portrait can take its rightful place next to the other classics of this genre.  

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Happy Independence Day!

Best Kept Secret




By Amy Hatvany


Cadence is a working mother, which is like having two conflicting full time jobs, as any working mom will tell you. She wants the best for her little boy, and she takes pride in her freelance writing position.

Overwhelmed and exhausted, Cadence begins to have one little innocuous glass of wine before bed, just to help her get to sleep. Unfortunately, one glass gradually becomes several, until glasses eventually become bottles. Before long, Cadence has become dependent upon the wine. She is an alcoholic, at risk of losing her child.

Even in today’s society, there are predisposed opinions regarding behaviors for men, women, and for parents. There remains a double-standard when it comes to women and drinking, particularly mothers and drinking. The reality of addiction, however, is that it affects both sexes, all ages, classes and people.

This is an important book, especially for women, because of this closed thinking, and the shame associated with it. It is a brave book, written with an understanding of the cause and effect, the tragedy and the possibility of triumph.

This book should be read and discussed. It should be shared. It should never be a secret.




Books

PLEASE check out my "Book Reviews" Page
for this kind of fun!
All of the info & answers are there!

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Bird House




By Kelly Simmons



This is the story of a mother haunted by a secret she has long kept hidden. Now as she grows old, she finds she must come to terms with an act she committed as a young mother…the secret she kept will come out.

As Grandma Ann Biddle assists her 8 year old granddaughter Ellie with a school project, she finds herself questioning her memory of the past. She finds herself wondering what is actually a memory, and what is her impression of the event. Ann is no longer sure what really happened, or the way things really happened. She isn’t sure if her recollections are things she created to protect herself from the truth, and the pain of the past. She knows she must face the facts before it is too late.

Ann’s daughter-in-law Tinsley is Ellie’s mother. She feels the need to protect her own daughter from Ann. Unsure of Ann’s health and tenuous grip on reality, Tinsley feels responsible for monitoring the bond, as well as past secrets and their effect on the family’s future.

Time will tell. Secrets always come out, one way or another. Family shares your history. These three generations of women will come together because of heartbreak, but ultimately for healing. Indeed there is strength in numbers, and in love.