In Jacqueline Boulden’s novel, an ambitious photojournalist returns to her quaint upstate New York hometown after experiencing a debilitating injury.
As a high school student living in the Adirondacks-adjacent town of Lake Amelia, Rose Webster found freedom and purpose in the art of words. Her undergraduate years at Ithaca College deepened her interest in journalism and paved the way for a promising career as a news photographer.
Now in her late 30s and living in Philadelphia, Rose’s career is paused due to a broken arm, and when Rose learns her mother has been hospitalized because of persistent health problems, she rushes home. As Rose contends with her mother’s lung cancer diagnosis and nagging anxieties about dwindling professional opportunities, long-buried family secrets—including one that could forever change the perception of her parents’ marriage—come to light. When Rose finally puts all the pieces together, how will she move on? Can she forget these shocking transgressions, if not forgive the person responsible for her family’s collective trauma?
Boulden’s contemporary drama closely explores unspoken familial inheritances and the hidden selves our loved ones will never know. The narrative effectively captures the quirks of small-town life, and the author’s descriptions of Lake Amelia feature the expected landmarks of a quintessential Northeastern town: Cape Cod-style houses, a no-frills diner populated by repeat customers, etc. Like many insular towns, Lake Amelia’s picture-perfect veneer conceals flaws and conflicts.
The journey to uncover the family secret is engaging; readers will eagerly follow Rose as she employs journalistic skills to solve the mystery. Yet the larger consequences of exposing this secret—such as discovering the surprising identity of a family member—seem comparatively fleeting. The aftermath is limited to a few pages that eschew deeper introspection. Additionally, the side plot of a bicycle theft ring is built up only to abruptly fizzle out.
Still, this domestic slice-of-life novel may engage those who enjoy stories about the complicated and sometimes-uncomfortable bonds of family.