REVIEWED BY DAVID M. KINCHEN
Two novels by bestselling author Susan Lewis portray women who anchor their families as they confront illness or potential family breakups are ideal for book club discussion, especially since they both have Random House Reader’s Circle guides.
I’ll review the latest novel, “Never Say Goodbye” (Ballantine Books trade paperback, 544 pages, $15.00) first, followed by a novel that was published in November 2013, “The Truth About You” (Ballantine Books trade paperback, 496 pages, $15.00).
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“Never Say Goodbye” deals with the friendship between two women of different social classes in a coastal town not far from Bristol in the West of England.
Josie Clark, a 40-something loving wife and mother, struggles to make ends meet by cleaning homes and working at a diner while her husband, Jeff, drives a taxi, after being laid off from a better paying job. His Opel taxi is always breaking down. One of their children, daughter Lily, 21, is doing well in college –“Uni” in Brit-Speak — and has a boyfriend.
Their other child, Ryan, is in prison, for his involvement in a robbery. Josie is convinced that Ryan’s involvement in the crime was peripheral and that he should be released. The Clarks spent their entire savings on lawyers, and Jeff refuses to visit Ryan or even speak to him. When Josie discovers she has breast cancer, she’s reluctant to tell the family.
Across town, in a spectacular black and white Victorian villa by the sea, Isabella (Bel) Monkton is mourning the death fifteen months ago by cancer of her twin sister, Natalia (Talia) Lambert. Bel is single and is a successful and talented property developer and renovator. She’s the loving aunt of Natalia’s two young children and has a complicated relationship with their dad, archaeologist Nick Lambert, who has just married a beautiful woman named Kristina, also an archaeologist. Bel thinks Nick’s marriage has taken place far too soon after Talia’s death.
Bel meets Josie through the medical center’s cancer support group and the two women become friends, eventually sharing each other’s secrets. Unlikely as it appears, the friendship between Bel and Josie becomes a life changing one. Bel is estranged from her father and is facing a decision whether to have a relationship with Talia’s cancer doctor, Harry Beck. Of course, he’s married!
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“The Truth About You” (Ballantine Books trade paperback, 496 pages, $15.00) is the story of Elenora (Lainey) Hollingsworth, wife of bestselling author Tom, mother of 16-year old raging hormones daughter Tierney; 11-year-old Xavier (Zav), and stepmother to Max, Tom’s 21-year-old son by his first marriage to Emma.
Lainey was the “other woman” to Max, who blames her for his troubled life. He lives in an apartment in the Hollingsworth estate, Also resident is Peter Winlock, Lainey’s adoptive father, and Peter’s faithful dog, Sherman. Peter, a distinguished publisher who sold his firm to a multinational a dozen years ago, is suffering from Alzheimer’s and needs constant care.
Lainey is the out-of-wedlock daughter of an Italian woman named Alessandra (Sandra, to her husband, Peter), who recently died. Lainey wants to travel to Italy to find out the secret of her birth father and has booked a villa in Umbria, he mother’s native region, for a family summer vacation. She wants to know why her mother fled Italy when Lainey was an infant. The guest list for the trip to the villa in Italy includes Stacy, Lainey’s best friend, who’s recently gone through a horrific divorce. The two are inseparable.
In the midst of this, Lainey receives cryptic voice mail and text messages (there’s a lot of that in this novel, where cell phones to us are “mobiles” to the characters). The messages say: Ask your husband about Julia. Who is Julia, Lainey wonders. Has her handsome husband gone astray.
In the end, everything is sorted out, but the thrill in this book — as in “Never Say Goodbye” — is in the discovery. Not to mention the power of friendship, which is always present in Susan Lewis’s novels. No reader will underestimate the power of friendship between Josie and Bel in “Never Say Goodbye” or between Lainey and Stacy in “The Truth About You” when they finish reading these two novels.
About the Author
Susan Lewis is the internationally bestselling author of more than thirty novels, including No Child of Mine, Don’t Let Me Go, and The Truth About You. Having resided in France and the United States for many years, she now lives in the rural county of Gloucestershire, U.K. Lewis’ mother died of cancer when she was a child, and she is a supporter of Breast Cancer Care, and the Bristol-based charity Breast-cancer Unit Support Trust (B.U.S.T.), which raises money to help provide treatment and support for the local community and medical technology for the Breast Care Unit at Southmead Hospital, Bristol.She is also a supporter of Winston’s Wish, the charity for bereaved children.