“A Brit living in North Carolina, Barbara Claypole White writes hopeful family drama with a healthy dose of mental illness. Her debut novel, THE UNFINISHED GARDEN, won the 2013 Golden Quill Contest for Best First Book, and THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR was chosen by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance as a Winter 2014 Okra Pick. Her third novel, THE PERFECT SON, was a semifinalist in the 2015 Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Fiction. (Cover)
Marianne is a mature woman who suffers with Bipolar Disorder and other mental health issues. She also runs a successful recording studio with her husband Darius and her adoptive daughter Jade. They all work and enjoy music together on Marianne’s property in North Carolina; there is a state of the art studio. Marianne has not been suicidal for an extended period of time, but due to a recent car accident she is obsessing about another car accident in which her friend Simon died and she lost her pregnancy. She believes Simon’s brother Gabriel is taking the blame and she wishes to remedy this problem – right now.
The vast majority of the story takes place in a small British town centered on the historic church where Gabriel is the rector. Marianne stops taking her medications and sneaks out of her house and off to the UK to help Gabriel truly understand that the car accident was her fault and not his. They were just 16 at the time. Marianne also needs to understand why her birth mother rejected her and why her adoptive parents did not reject her. They did move the family to the United States after the accident and after Marianne had a big “incident” in the community, as mental illness was becoming a new problem.
It does not take long for Jade and Darius to figure out where Marianne has gone and they too are soon part of Gabriel’s life as this family takes over his life, his house and all his time. There are some wonderful, delightful British characters in the story and as Marianne ends up in a private mental hospital there are connections made, which have interesting consequences.
The story holds the reader’s attention with plenty of details and descriptions and one can certainly identify with the frustrations that mental illness brings to situations. There are several happy endings and one difficult one to bring the story to a good conclusion. I liked the included book group question section and there is a great interview with the author included. A very good read and I am going to suggest it to my book group to add it to the list. A sensitive treatment of Bipolar Disorder and an engaging read.
TLC Book Tours sent me an e-copy for reading and review.
There is a 100 e-copy giveaway on Goodreads for this book!