Friday, July 29, 2022

Literary Friday: This Place of Wonder



Happy Friday, My Lovelies!  Today's Literary Friday post features This Place of Wonder by Barbara O'Neal.  It's the perfect beach read if you like literary fiction, and it would also be a great book club selection because there is a plethora of family drama in the narrative your book club could discuss for hours on end!

About This Place of Wonder

Hardcover: 316 Pages

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (July 19, 2022)

In the wake of a personal tragedy, four women face the past, their futures, and each other in a novel of broken ties and healing by the Amazon Charts bestselling author of When We Believed in Mermaids.

When famed chef Augustus Beauvais dies, he leaves behind a celebrated reputation and four women grappling with loss, anger, pain, and the question of how the world will turn without him…

Meadow, the ex-wife with whom Augustus built an empire–and a family–still holds a place for him in her heart, even as she continues to struggle with his infidelities, which ended their twenty-year marriage. More unforgiving is Maya, his estranged daughter, who’s recently out of rehab but finally ready to reclaim her life. Norah, his latest girlfriend, sidelined her own career for unexpected love and a life of luxury, both of which are now gone with Augustus. And then there’s Rory, Meadow’s daughter, the voice of calm and reason in a chorus of discontent.

As Meadow, Maya, Norah, and Rory are flung together by tragedy, grief, and secrets yet to be revealed, they must accept–or turn away from–the legacy of great intentions and bad decisions Augustus left them. And when the circumstances around his death are called into question, their conflicted feelings become even more complicated. But moving forward is the only choice they have, and to do so, they’ll need to rely on family, friendship, and inner strength.

Set on the stunning, rugged California coastline, This Place of Wonder is an emotional, lush, and empowering story of four women finding their way in a changed world–and what a wondrous journey it will be.


My Review:

This book was surprising, and although the book blurb is very accurate, it doesn't prepare the reader for the emotional rollercoaster of grief and shocking plot points facing the four women closest to Augustus Beauvais.  Although deceased, Augustus is the most compelling character in the novel.  All four women: his ex-wife, Meadow; his current lover, Norah; his daughter, Maya; and his step-daughter, Rory are shocked that the center of their world, a robust man larger than life, died so suddenly without any warning whatsoever.  Norah, a recovering alcoholic, leaves rehab a couple of weeks early due to his death.  Estranged from her father for almost ten years because he left her step-mother, she settles into her luxurious childhood home on the beach in Central California.  She's angry that she won't have the opportunity to confront Augustus with her disappointment in him because he "threw away their family."

Meadow is an enigma wrapped-up in a mystery: There is little information on her early life.  Norah flies to California (at Augustus' invitation) to interview Meadow as a leading foodie in the farm to table movement for her dissertation.  Norah falls in love with Augustus before she even meets Meadow.  Norah's character was troublesome in my opinion because she was clearly intelligent, yet she let a much older man sideline her education and goals.  Stupid girl.  Rory was the only person in Augustus' life he didn't leave (he had left Norah with her alcoholic mother to marry Meadow).  Rory's character is not quite as well-drawn as the other three women, and part of the reason for that is the book is told in first person from the other three women's points of view.  There is a lot of head hopping in this book, but it works for the narrative.  One thing I can say about Rory is she seems to be outwardly grieving for Augustus more than the others.

The story begins to morph into a (possible) murder mystery, which I wasn't expecting, and the more I read, the less I liked the women other than Rory.  However, I did understand where Maya was coming from, and I truly rooted for her to get her act together and remain sober. Maya's struggle was a huge part of the story. The beautiful California coastline is the perfect setting for this novel.  The wildfires in the distance add an eerie and oppressive atmosphere, making the characters even more nervous and anxious as they wait for the completion of the autopsy report and police investigation into Augustus' cause of death.   

I could not put this novel down: I finished it in two days.  If you enjoy women's fiction and complicated family dynamics, then you should enjoy This Place of Wonder.  


Disclosure:

I received an ARC from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.  I've enjoyed being a part of this tour!



Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill


 

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