Vine Leaves Press; 11/1/2013
Trade Paperback, 268 pages
Six women. One man. Seven secrets. One could ruin them all.
Kit is a twenty-five-year-old archaeology undergrad, who doesn't like to get her hands dirty. Life seems purposeless. But if she could track down her father, Roger, maybe her perspective would change.
The only problem-Roger is as rotten as the decomposing oranges in her back yard according to the women in her life: Ailish, her mother-an English literature professor who communicates in quotes and clichés, and who still hasn't learned how to express emotion on her face; Ivy, her half-sister-a depressed archaeologist, with a slight case of nymphomania who fled to America after a divorce to become a waitress; and Eleanor, Ivy's mother-a pediatric surgeon who embellishes her feelings with medical jargon, and named her daughter after "Intravenous.
Against all three women's wishes, Kit decides to find Roger.
Enter a sister Kit never knew about.
But everyone else did.
Bitter Like Orange Peel by Jessica Bell focuses on six women with an interconnected relationship. In a rather awkward scenario, three are daughters of Roger and three are the mothers of those daughters. Ivy, an anthropologist with a masters who is recently divorced and working as a barista, is the daughter of Eleanor, a pediatric surgeon who is the only women who was ever actually married to Roger. Kit, also an anthropology student, is the daughter of Ailish, an English literature professor who had an affair with Roger. Eydie is the last sister (and a surprise to Kit) and her mother, Beth is an alcoholic who slept with Roger.
The secrets revealed were not that earth shattering when held up in comparison to a woman (Eleanor) who encouraged a relationship between half-sisters (Ivy and Kit) and, in fact, had a friendship with the mother of the woman who had an affair with her husband (Ailish). That's not even taking into consideration the completely worthless deadbeat father who apparently was fathering daughters everywhere and then disappeared without even trying to continue a relationship with his children.
The problem I had with Bell's book was not with her writing, which, even though it was a bit over-wrought at times, was certainly well executed. (This is assuming I ignore inclusion of Australian slang in American characters - I'm running with the premise that Ivy's acquaintances picked it up from her.) The problem I had was with every single character and everything they said and did. In the end I actually loathed every character in this book. That is a mighty high hurdle for any storyline/plot to overcome. Bell still might have won me over but the ending was unsatisfactory to say the least. Sadly, Bell just couldn't pull this one out of the hole for me.
I'm giving Bitter Like Orange Peel a so-so rating based on the quality of the writing alone.
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of the author via Netgalley for review purposes.