Podcast version of my review:
Meet the Geller sisters: Beck, Claire, and Sophie, a trio of strong-minded women whose pragmatic, widowed mother, Marti, will be dying soon and taking her secrets with her. Marti has ensured that her modest estate is easy for her family to deal with once she’s gone––including a provision that the family’s summer cottage on Mount Desert Island, Maine, must be sold, the proceeds split equally between the three girls.
Beck, the eldest, is a freelance journalist whose marriage looks more like a sibling bond than a passionate partnership. In fact, her husband Paul is hiding a troubling truth about his love life. For Beck, the Maine cottage has been essential to her secret wish to write a novel––and to remake the terms of her relationship.
Despite her accomplishments as a pediatric cardiologist, Claire, the middle daughter, has always felt like the Geller misfit. Recently divorced, Claire’s secret unrequited love for the wrong man is slowly destroying her, and she’s finding that her expertise on matters of the heart unfortunately doesn’t extend to her own.
Youngest daughter Sophie appears to live an Instagram-ready life, filled with glamorous work and travel, celebrities, fashion, art, and sex. In reality, her existence is a cash-strapped house of cards that may crash at any moment.
Enter C.J. Reynolds, an enigmatic southerner ex-con with his own hidden past, who complicates the situation. All is not what it seems, and everything is about to change.
What’s it about (in a nutshell):
It All Comes Down to This is a story about sisterhood, family, grief, and the many secrets we hold dear, even from loved ones. It uses dramatic irony effectively to tell a story of many twists, turns, and revelations.
Initial Expectations (before beginning the book):
I love that this book is written by an NC writer. The cover looks like a water painting of a coastal area complete with a sailboat, which attracts me as I love a setting with water. I noticed that the UK cover is different, which always intrigues me. The UK cover is more like a photo and depicts a mountain cabin on a lake. It’s a very peaceful cover, while the US cover is a bit disjointed and requires study to figure out what you’re looking at. This makes me uncertain about what to expect since the two covers are so different. From the blurb, I understand that the family’s cottage in Maine is at the heart of the story and must be what’s depicted on both covers. I imagine there will be dissent among the sisters as to what to do with the cottage and that it will play an essential role in their grief over their mom’s passing and toward getting their own lives back on track.
Actual Reading Experience:
My actual reading experience was close to my initial expectations. What I did not expect, however, was my feelings about one of the earliest secrets revealed. This secret and the fact that it carried through the whole book left a bad taste in my mouth. Just imagining it in anything outside of a soap opera is too icky for me to stomach. I love dramatic irony, but not when it crosses that line where it begins to feel in too dark of a morally gray area. Other secrets were more relatable, though not as relatable as I expected. I would have loved for the house to play more of a role, but it sat calmly and quietly in the background for most of the story.
Now that I got all that off my chest, I want to look at what’s good about this story.
The many secrets made the story flow and remain compelling from start to finish. How would they be revealed, and what would the consequences be kept me glued to the page. I loved the pace of the revelations as they came one after another at just the right time to hasten the pace.
The sisters lose their mother at the story’s beginning, and I loved how their grief was handled. It felt very authentic. At first, I was doubtful, but as their grief progressed, I could more clearly see how each action and feeling is as genuine as any of us experience in such a situation.
I also loved that storytelling plays such a prominent role, especially in the writing and editing worlds. I always love a book about books, and stories play a much more central role than even the lake cabin in Maine. If that beautiful setting couldn’t play a more prominent position, I’m glad storytelling had such an integral place.
The characters are well-detailed and individualized. I loved that the three sisters are each so different. I can’t say that I could relate to any at a level where I could feel empathy for their plight, but I was okay with that. I don’t always have to have a character I like and/or can relate to if the story doesn’t have room for such a character.
To Read or Not to Read:
If you love family stories about secrets and adore dramatic irony and soap opera-like revelations, It All Comes Down to This is a book you will want to consider this summer.