Penguin Random House: 6/9/20
review copy; 400 pages
Always the Last to Know by Kristan Higgins is a highly recommended family drama.
Barb Frost, a selectman in the small town of Stonington,
Connecticut, is preparing to divorce her husband, John, after fifty
years of marriage. She has been unhappy and they have been emotionally
miles apart for years. Then John suffers a stroke. Barb and their two
daughters rush to the hospital. Juliet, 42, is a successful architect,
married, the mother of two, and Barb's favorite. Younger daughter
Sadie, 31, is a struggling artist in NYC and has always been John's
favorite daughter. At the hospital Barb learns from messages on his
phone that John had a mistress. John is sent home and must have in home
care. Sadie moves back to Stonington to help care for him.
The story unfolds through chapters written in the individual
points-of-view of Barb, Juliet, Sadie, and brief chapters from John.
Everyone in the family is going through an emotional upheaval while
caring for John. Barb has felt neglected and ignored for years and those
feelings are boiling over. Juliet is stretched thin with her marriage, family, and job.
Now she has a young architect that she is mentoring overshadowing her
and she is having panic attacks. She spotted her father with his
mistress and has kept the secret. Sadie was teaching art while trying to
break into the art world, but now she's left her job and boyfriend,
moving back to help care for her father because it's obvious her mother
and Juliet won't be able to do so. She also is now seemingly seeing her
old boyfriend, Noah, at every turn.
There is no doubt that the writing is excellent, especially the
character development and dialogue. Higgins also does a wonderful job at
creating complex, believable, sympathetic characters. You will swear
you know or have met these women. The dialogue is also exceptional and
each character has a characteristic, individual voice. Higgins handles
the problems each person is going through while integrating it into the
plot with skill and finesse. The characters make this novel shine. The
plot will hold your attention throughout and you will be anxious to
reach the final denouement. John's chapters are especially poignant
because he is basically non-verbal and we are just reading his thoughts.
The beginning of Always the Last to Know does start out a little rough and Barb comes off as a cold shrew. There also are a few parts that may make those of us who are occasionally too cynical roll our eyes, and the ending is just too perfectly wrapped up. On the other hand, I was anxious to continue reading Always the Last to Know and discover what happens to each character. It is a feel good story would be an excellent choice for summer reading.Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.