June by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Cassie is twenty-five and living in the dilapidated mansion, Two Oaks, she inherited from her grandmother, June. The house is literally falling down around her: also a pretty good metaphor for Cassie's life. She's fled her life as an artist in New York and come to St. Jude, Ohio, to grieve for her grandmother and lick her wounds. That basically amounts to hiding in the house, ignoring the phone, and letting the mail (and bills) pile up around her. But even she can't ignore the constant ringing of the doorbell. With it comes some pretty shocking news: Cassie has been named sole heir to the fortune of the legendary movie star, Jack Montgomery. Considering Cassie only barely knew of Jack's name, this comes as quite a surprise. Why did this famous actor leave her his fortune? Did Jack know Cassie's grandmother, June? Suddenly Jack's two daughters show up, wanting answers as well, and Cassie's life will never be the same.
There are really no words for this book. It's a beautiful and magical adventure. It takes what should be a fairly simple event - figuring out whether Cassie is related to Jack - and turns it into a lovely, suspenseful read. I simply couldn't put this book down. The characters are so real, so fully actualized that they jump off the page. Cassie, June, June's childhood friend Lindie, Jack, the people of St. Jude - they are all there, truly vivid in your mind's eye. The book really does simply set out to determine if and how Cassie and Jack are tied together, but it's this amazing and compelling read.
You're pulled into the spellbinding world of then versus now... the story twists between present day, told from Cassie's point of view and the 1950s, which is really accurately portrayed. I'm usually a contemporary fiction reader all the way, but this period portrayal is so well-done, and I loved it. The character of Lindie, especially, makes your heart ache. As the book flips between time and the story unfolds, you become completely enmeshed in the characters' world; Beverly Whittemore does such a good job of creating them that you feel with them and really become part of their lives.
I am trying to think of any flaws, but I can't. I guessed at a few of the plot twists, but only narrowly before they happened, and it certainly didn't ruin my enjoyment of the story whatsoever. Cassie can be a frustrating character at times (read your mail, darn-it), but it's only because she's so well-created. Overall, this is really a beautiful, suspenseful book that brings you into its world. I highly recommend it. 4.5 stars.
I received a copy of this novel from Librarything (thank you!); it is available everywhere on 5/31.
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