Sunday, February 15, 2015

Just Jennifer

The Precious One by Marisa de los Santos (William Morrow, March 2015)

Ghostwriter Taisy Cleary and her twin brother Marcus have been estranged from their father for over fifteen years, since they were eighteen when he left their mother for another woman with whom he had another daughter and made another life.  Out of nowhere, Wilson Cleary calls Taisy and invites her (and Marcus) to visit for an unspecified period of time to get to know her half-sister, sixteen-year-old Willow, and write Wilson’s memoir.  Taisy is not sure why, or won’t admit to herself why she is willing to make the seven hour drive back to her home town, but does.  Upon arrival, she finds Wilson not entirely recovered from a recent heart attack, his wife Caroline (Caro) an artist, suffering dangerously from parasomnia and Willow, an exceptionally bright young woman who has just begun attending a private high school after having been home-schooled her entire life.  Told effectively from the alternating viewpoints of Taisy and Willow, the story of two families unfolds and the story of a brilliant scientist who often treats his family as if they were a lab experiment, trying to control the environment and outcomes.  Taisy begins to investigate Wilson’s background, against his wishes, for the arrogant man’s biography and finds herself seeking out Ben, the man she left behind but has never stopped loving.  Willow negotiates the minefield that is high school, being ostracized by her new classmates, but receiving not entirely unwanted, though completely inappropriate attention from a teacher.

This novel features strong, almost too good to be true women, and weak, sometimes reprehensible men who do not come to their senses until a woman sets them straight, yet it doesn’t feel heavy handed but almost redemptive for everyone who is deemed worthy of redemption.  A pleasant, quick read, The Precious One provides a glimpse at the families we are born into and how we navigate them and recreate them into the families we need at the times we need them the most.

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