Synopses & Reviews
A Good Morning America Read This Book Club pick
Named One of the Best Books of the Year by the San Francisco Chronicle
How well do we ever know the people we love? Chessman examines this question in three generations of women in a contemporary Connecticut family. As dementia overtakes Hannah Pearl, she slips backward in memory to her escape from France in 1940; boarding the ferry with her heavy bags; the whistle of bombs raining down on London; the family she left behind. Her daughter Miranda, distraught by Hannahs fading lucidity and sudden switch to her childhood French, tries desperately to hold her in the present. Fiona, a new mother and the older of Hannahs two granddaughters, ignores the ghosts of her grandmothers past, while her sister, fiery Ida, seeks to delve into Hannahs story, eventually returning to France to find the roots of her grandmothers lifeand her own.
As Hannah Pearl's memories of her 1940 escape to England from war-torn France come to the foreground of her consciousness, her memory of her more recent American life, including her relationships with her daughter and granddaughters, is almost erased. Her daughter, Miranda, attempts to bring her mother into the present and the daily activities of family life, yet finds herself instead pulled into Hannah's unresolved past. Miranda's daughters confront the shadows of history in their own ways. Fiona, content with her life as a new mother, tries to ignore the ghostly presence of Hannah's family, who perished in the war, while Ida clings to Hannah's revelations as if they form a lifeline. Facing the mystery of Hannah's unspoken memories of grief, each woman must ask how well anyone can know the inner life of another person, even of someone one cherishes.
About the Author
Harriet Scott Chessman is the author of Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper, a #1 Book Sense pick. Formerly associate professor of English at Yale University, she has also taught literature and writing at Bread Loaf School of English and Wesleyan University, and has published several essays on modern literature.