Maddy, however, isn’t ready to leave her family forever. Watching from beyond, she tries to find the perfect replacement for herself. Along comes Rory: pretty, caring, and spontaneous, with just the right bit of edge...but who also harbors a tragedy of her own. Will the mystery of Maddy ever come to rest? And can her family make peace with their history and begin to heal?
Comment: I had this book in the pile since 2017 and I finally got to it. This is the first book I try by this author but I ended up liking her style.
In this book we meet Maddie, she used to be a happy wife and mother but we learn she has recently died and is she who introduces us to her story as a ghost, trying to steer her family into a possible happy path. Maddie is said to have committed suicide but there is still some doubt on why, after all nothing would point to her being bad enough to do it. Throughout the book, we will learn how special she was, how much enjoyment for life and how intelligent and supportive she was of so many people, that her act is more and more difficult to understand. We also see what her husband Brady and teenage daughter Eve are feeling and the big picture develops into them being a normal, happy family. But now this has happened, will Brady and Eve be able to move on?
I think it might seem this is a mystery novel from my summary but it's not. This is woman's fiction and drama but it could have certainly been a mystery or a thriller! Nevertheless, this isn't as much about what happened with Maddie but how, now that she is gone, her family can move on and learn from this terrible experience. However, I confess: as some chapters went on, it started to be a little obvious Maddie didn't commit suicide as everyone thinks, but it really was strange why everything pointed to her having done it anyway and part of my eagerness in reading was to look for clues.
I think the author did a good planning on this story. The characters felt realistic enough - no one was perfect - and their emotional state played a big part in why sometimes they weren't as likable as I would have thought, especially Brady. I believe the purpose of this book was to portray an emotional evolution on grief, on how someone copes and deals with a tragedy but still maintains a healthy state of mind. It isn't easy to mourn someone, to feel lost if they think the person chose to die and the way the author wrote things did make me think about that.
Maddie is still the protagonist, even though she is dead. Through her we learn a lot but conveniently she never shares what happened at her time of death, she is focused on helping her family moving on and one of her decisions is to find a new wife for Brady, someone he would be happy with. At times, it felt this bordered the ridiculous considering the tone of the story (drama serious) but Rory, her choice, was a good enough character, who also faced tragedy in the past and she has qualities which would complement both Brady and Eve. In fact, is by tutoring Eve and befriending her that Rory enters their lives.
Still, Maddie acts as an instigator, someone whose "voice" is heard by others, even though they don't think of it that way. but it was well done by the author how these situations weren't always smooth and sometimes Brady, Eve or Rory wouldn't behave as easily as Maddie would have wanted. I found this "lighter" element to not be bothersome or too silly because the poignancy and seriousness of the emotions depicted and the ideas all the characters provide gave this a balanced kind of vibe. I was emotionally invested in what they were thinking that it was easy to think of the "silly" little things as just that.
The pace felt lively because the chapters are alternated with Maddie, Evie and Brady's POV. Not only do we have an idea of their personalities through their voices but we obviously learn some things this way which a single first person narrator couldn't share. Closer to the end, though, some chapters seemed to drag a bit, some situations were enhanced while others weren't as cleverly developed and this means it felt like the big reveal came out of nowhere, as if it had been too.... random to be believable. I certainly would have liked a stronger base/explanation on how things were discovered and solved.