Formats available: paperback, ebook
Published by Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing on December 1st 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Publisher's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository
According to Mayan tradition, if you whisper your troubles to the Worry Dolls, they will do the worrying instead of you--therefore, it follows that Worry Dolls are the keepers of a great many secrets . . .
On the eve of the end of the world--according to the Mayan calendar--Mari Guarez Roselli's secrets are being unraveled by her daughter, Lu.
Lu's worry dolls are at-capacity as she tries to outrun the ghosts from her past--including loved ones stolen on 9/11--by traveling through her mother's homeland of Guatemala, to discover the painful reasons behind her own dysfunctional childhood, and why she must trust in the magic of the legend.
This is a slow-simmering story, as we read about mother-and-daughter Mari and Lu, each from their own very distinct, if equally unreliable, perspectives.
These two women have been touched by tragedy, over and over. They both seem to survive, and yet, neither of them really does. And the tragedies they share drive them even further apart than the ones they experienced separately.
As the story begins, Lu is at the airport, wandering a bit because she chose not to take her scheduled flight to her mother’s home country of Guatemala. Lu just wasn’t ready for the trip, or for whatever secrets her mother expected to be revealed to her.
Lu was even less prepared to hear over the airport’s speakers that the plane that she was supposed to be on had crashed with no survivors. And that the crash site was her own little community in New Jersey.
This was the second time that Lu had dodged fate. She was supposed to have been on a school trip on September 11, 2001 to see the World Trade Center. In the midst of a snit with her twin sister Rae, Lu decided not to go. So Lu was at school when the towers fell, and her sister died. She lost her father that day as well, he was a firefighter, a first responder, and he never made it out.
Lu might as well have lost her mother that day too. Mari retreated for long stretches of time in to the sleeping pills and wine that had always been her crutch. The only difference now was that Lu at least knew what drove her mother to self-medicate her pain and loss.
When Lu comes back from the airport, she discovers that she is the only member of her family left behind, as tragedy has struck again. Her mother is in a coma as a result of the plane crash. And her mother is pregnant.
From this point we view the story from two diverging viewpoints. With Lu, we see her childhood and young adulthood as she remembers them, and we see Lu in the present, coping with the decisions that must be made about the care of not only her mother, but of her unborn brother or sister. And we see her finally take the trip that her mother meant her to take, the trip to discover the truth about Mari’s past.
But we also view that past from Mari’s perspective. Within the depths of her coma, she seems to be telling, at last, the true story of her life to her unborn child. And as the past merges with the present, the joys, the sorrows, and the regrets are finally laid bare.
Escape Rating B: This story takes a while to go from a simmer to a boil. It feels as if the first two thirds are set up, and the final third is the payoff. But it definitely does pay off marvelously in that last third. The story in the present is from Lu’s perspective, and for a lot of the book, she is just barely treading water. Her life seems to have been on hold since 9/11. She can’t seem to let herself live. She can’t even manage to let herself leave the island community of Rock Harbor that both shelters and imprisons her.
There are so many things that Lu doesn’t know, and so much that she doesn’t want to tell herself.
But Mari is an even more unreliable narrator. She has been hiding the facts of her early life from Lu, and also from herself. There is too much in the past that she hasn’t wanted to face – which has not kept that past from haunting her life.
There’s also an element of magical realism in the way that this story works. After all, how are we reading Mari’s perspective? She is in a coma in the present throughout the entirety of this book. And yet, it feels right that we learn about her in her own voice.
The story revolves around choices, the different choices that women make, and the different choices that are available to them. So much of what went wrong in Mari’s life revolves around her choices and the choices of those around her. Lu seems to be trying to avoid making choices, until she finally realizes that she has to face up to them. In the end, she makes the choice that is right for her, and after having lived through her story, we feel it with her.
~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~
I am giving away a copy of Secrets of Worry Dolls to one lucky US/Canadian commenter on this tour.