Saturday, June 2, 2018

I'll Be Your Blue Sky (Book Review)

Title: I’ll Be Your Blue Sky
Publication: Harper Collins hardcover, 2018
Genre: Fiction
Plot: On the weekend of her wedding, Clare Hobbes meets an elderly woman named Edith Herron. During the course of a single conversation, Edith gives Clare the courage to do what she should have done months earlier: break off her engagement to her charming—yet overly possessive—fiancĂ©.

Three weeks later, Clare learns that Edith has died—and has given her another gift. Nestled in crepe myrtle and hydrangea and perched at the marshy edge of a bay in a small seaside town in Delaware, Blue Sky House now belongs to Clare. Though the former guest house has been empty for years, Clare feels a deep connection to Edith inside its walls, which are decorated with old photographs taken by Edith and her beloved husband, Joseph.

Exploring the house, Clare finds two mysterious ledgers hidden beneath the kitchen sink. Edith, it seems, was no ordinary woman—and Blue Sky House no ordinary place. With the help of her mother, Viviana, her surrogate mother, Cornelia Brown, and her former boyfriend and best friend, Dev Tremain, Clare begins to piece together the story of Blue Sky House—a decades-old mystery more complex and tangled than she could have imagined. As she peels back the layers of Edith’s life, Clare discovers a story of dark secrets, passionate love, heartbreaking sacrifice, and incredible courage. She also makes startling discoveries about herself: where she’s come from, where she’s going, and what—and who—she loves.   (description from the publisher’s website)

Told from both Edith and Clare's perspectives, I’ll Be Your Blue Sky brings back some of the favorite characters from de los Santos’ first two books, LoveWalked In and Belong to Me.

Audience: There is no one who writes as beautifully as Marisa de los Santos so it is hard to identify similar authors but I think people who enjoy Luanne Rice and Jacquelyn Mitchard would like her books.

My Impressions: A new book by Marisa de los Santos is always a treat!   As always, this was lyrical prose, although as my sister pointed out, Clare’s engagement to the overly possessive fiancĂ© was never very convincing.  One doesn’t read these books for the plot per se but because de los Santos is such a kindred spirit - for example, she writes:
In a book I loved as a kid, a girl named Randy plays a game in which she wanders around the wide yard of her family’s big quirky, wonderful house and pretends she is a traveler, far from home and alone in the world.  It’s nighttime, so, through the windows, she can see the family – brothers, sister, father, housekeeper, dogs – moving around in their warm, interior light, going about their evening rituals, while Randy, outside in the cooling air, can hear bathwater running, a dog’s bark, a radio, the father’s typewriter, all the blessed and ordinary music of a happy family, and she stands in the grass, getting sadder by the second, aching with longing and loneliness.  And then – whoosh – she allows herself to suddenly remember that the house is hers, the family is hers, and flooded with the sweetest relief, she runs inside.
I knew the minute I read 'Randy' that this was Elizabeth Enright’s Randy Melendy but I can’t place the quote.  There are four books about this delightful fictional family – my mother gave me the first book, The Saturdays (1941), which is set in New York and involves the four siblings pooling their allowance so that each can have a more expensive city adventure than they would be able to afford individually.   But this quote refers to the house the Melendys bought in The Four-Story Mistake (1942) when they leave their Manhattan brownstone for a sprawling home in the country (I always assumed Connecticut but a quick look at my book indicates it was Carthage, NY which seems awfully far from NYC – also, wasn’t Mr. Melendy a professor?  Where is he going to teach in the middle of nowhere?).  In the third book, Then There Were Five (1944), the Melendys add another son (I don’t remember reading this one as frequently), and the fourth book is my favorite, Spiderweb for Two (1951), which is about how Randy and Oliver cope with their loneliness when their older siblings leave home (this was my favorite; I even remember the brownish red color of the rebound library copy I frequently borrowed).  I had forgotten until I just reread an earlier blog post that de los Santos mentioned her love of Enright in an NPR interview several years ago.

There is also an Anne of Green Gables reference: I told you this author is a kindred spirit! Of course, the book is well worth reading even apart from her very congenial kidlit mentions, whether you have read de los Santos before or are complete new to her.

Quiz:  Someone has done a Melendy Family quiz – I got 10/10, can you?

Source: I checked out I'll Be Your Blue Sky from the Boston Public Library.   Click here for my review of Falling Together (2011).

(Illustration of The Four-Story Mistake is copyright to the publisher - now, I think Henry Holt.  I am so glad they are still available - especially as I don't seem to own them all)

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