Rebecca Griffin is a busy working mom. She's a real estate agent and the central narrator of The Forgotten Roses by Deborah Doucette. Rebecca has quite a bit to manage: an emotionally distant and philandering husband, a troubled and disrespectful daughter, ethnic and religious familial obligations, and mysterious women from the past and present.
As a real estate agent, Rebecca prides herself in knowing people and matching them with the right living circumstances. One of the properties she shows is an old house and when she discovers that a murder may have taken place there, she is faced with an ethical dilemma: whether to disclose this knowledge to the prospective buyers. Her investigation into the history of the house leads her to a possible connection to the forty-year-old death of her own distant relative.
The narration maintains Rebecca's point of view throughout the book, but shifts briefly to the points of view of two other characters, Rebecca's eldest daughter and a stranger who once lived in the house. It is a technique that allows Doucette to keep the action moving in the present tense, giving it a quality of discovery. We learn about the former occupants of the house at the same time Rebecca does, from her friend and local coffee shop owner.
Doucette's characters are both authentic and memorable. Rebecca's overly stressed life resounds with contemporary truth and her eldest daughter's backtalk and boy problems ring true (especially to this former secondary school teacher of students with behavior issues). Much of her language is vivid, but at times her word choice and metaphors interfere with the telling of the story: for instance, Rebecca's grandmother's flowers "sighing their scent throughout the house" and a baby in her dream, "his face as used as worry." While descriptive, such language leads the reader to pause to figure out the significance. There are also a few typos.
A major stumbling block for this reader was the last chapter, which moves quickly and shifts orientation to the future. The momentum is lost and the reader is rushed through the ending without the strong temporal details and sense of discovery that characterizes the earlier portions of the books.
This is a compelling and enjoyable read. There are many threads and subplots in this story, and for the most part Doucette does an excellent job of holding them together and weaving them into a fast paced narrative with a hint of suspense that compels the reader to keep reading.
Deborah Doucette began her writing career as a free-lance journalist subsequently becoming involved in the issue of grandparents raising grandchildren. She is the author of the non-fiction book, Raising Our Children's Children: Room In The Heart, as well as a novel, The Forgotten Roses. Deborah is a blogger for the Huffington Post, an artist, and mother of four. She lives in a small town west of Boston with her red standard poodle Fiamma (Italian for flame). She is working on a new novel. Visit her website.
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