Friday, January 13, 2017

The Taste of Air

31439514A simple phone call disrupts Nell Williams’s well-ordered life. Her mother, Mary, is in a hospital in Vermont. But her mother is supposed to be safely tucked away in an assisted-living facility in Massachusetts, so Nell can’t fathom why she would be so far from home.

After notifying her sister, Bridget, Nell hops on a plane and rushes to her mother’s side. There, she discovers that her mother has been living a second life. Mary has another home and a set of complex relationships with people her daughters have never met.

When Nell and Bridget delve deeper into their mother’s lakeside hideaway, they uncover a vault of family secrets and the gateway to change for all three women.

*May Contain Spoilers*

One mother's secret becomes a beacon of hope and freedom for her two daughters in Gail Cleare's novel, The Taste of Air. An unexpected illness uncovers Mary's secret hideaway in Vermont when her daughter Nell is called to her hospital bedside. What begins as anger and confusion as to why Mary would keep a second life hidden from her family, becomes understanding and newfound confidence, as Nell and her sister, Bridget, dig to find out why their mother kept the secret at all. 

Mary, Nell, and Bridget share the narrator position as this novel unfolds, spanning decades. Mary's story is told in the past, sharing her time as an army nurse. As readers see her fall in love with Thomas, struggle through his MIA status, and seek comfort in the arms of another man, they'll slowly begin to understand why she had her secret hideaway. Mary worked as a nurse and that defined her personality throughout the book. She was always caring, loving, and willing to provide comfort. She also had a strong sense of duty that she let direct her life. Yet she craved freedom from the role. Readers may be just as confused as her daughters as they discover Mary's secret, but throughout the flashbacks, her decisions become crystal clear and readers will undoubtedly understand her motives. Though they may not completely understand why she kept the secret from Nell and Bridget for so long, as this was one main point I struggled with. 

Nell is semi-happily married with children of her own, yet she also craves freedom from her role as mother and wife. Nell is a strong woman who can carry a lot on her shoulders, but this secret life of her mother's definitely throws her for a loop. She also has the gentle, caring spirit of her mother, but she wants answers and she's determined to find them. Readers will most likely side with Nell immediately. She feels like her mother lied to her and is understandably upset. Though as the novel progresses, Nell realizes that she wants, and needs, exactly what her mother wanted -- room to breathe and be herself. 

Bridget experiences nearly the same thing, but with different factors. She's in a loveless marriage that borders on abusive. She's determined to leave her husband and rediscover herself as a single woman. Though she's upset by her mother's secrets, it doesn't seem to affect her as much as it does Nell. Bridget's attitude and personality are also a lot different from Nell's. Bridget is more flirtatious, open-minded, and playful. She gives the story an air of fun while also tackling a couple big issues like finding the daughter she was (unoffically) forced to give up and escaping an abusive, manipulative husband. Readers will enjoy watching Bridget grow and evolve while she's trying to help unravel her mother's mystery. 

The Taste of Air begins with Mary's illness and the discovery of a secret second life in Vermont by her daughters, Nell and Bridget. The main plot line follows them as they sort the clues and piece them together to form a bigger picture. It's a family mystery that is both intriguing and nerve-wracking, though it becomes completely understandable. Nell and Bridget discover so much about themselves, their family, their past, and their mother. The story is very well written and the pieces are placed perfectly so that readers begin to make connections just as Nell and Bridget are finding them, leading to the fact that everyone needs a little freedom in their lives to just be themselves. 

Rating: 4/5 Cups

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