The Birches have much reason to celebrate this holiday season. Their daughter Olivia is coming home for Christmas, for once. Olivia is a doctor returning from a trip to Liberia where the Haag epidemic has been traumatizing and she is forced into quarantine for 7 days after her return. Joining her will be her mother, Emma, who is keeping a major secret so as not to ruin Christmas. Also present will be her father, Andrew, who writes a column reviewing restaurants and his secret from more than three decades ago will make an appearance. Then her sister, Phoebe, who demands the attention of everyone, still lives at home with her parents, and is planning her wedding during the quarantine. Can they get past the miscommunication and secrets to have a happy Christmas or will the secrets prepare for a battle of betrayal?
It took a long time to pick up speed. Little bread crumbs had been dropped along the way which did build up to the second half, however, the first half was so slow that I was tempted many times to move on to another book. Fortunately, I did make it through and it picked up very quickly after about 60% into the book. A great portion of it was predictable, yet the character development finally comes through and I could not put the book down.
I gave it three stars because I took one star away for how long it took for the story to pick up speed and therefore the amount of times that I was almost at the point of giving up. I took another star away because there were far too many coincidences with the characters and too many secrets that it became overwhelming at times. When Jesse met Emma, for example, and she reveals her secret to him, a stranger. Emma then went on to meet Sean, Olivia’s secret. Jesse also met George, Phoebe’s fiancee, randomly while on a walk and again randomly in a bar and discovered his secret.
I would (and have) recommended this book for those who have traveled to Africa and feel that the warfare and politics of Africa are far too easily ignored in the West. Additionally, for those who feel that the rest of the world groups Africa into one general concept rather than it being an entire continent. I would also recommend this book for readers who enjoy reading about family dynamics and secrets being revealed. Much like (one of my favorite authors) Liane Moriarty books, that are told in different perspectives and center around secrets.
I would not recommend this book for those who may be offended or triggered by: foul language, cancer, sibling rivalry, homophobia, infidelity, infectious diseases, and warfare in Liberia.
Please note: an advanced reader copy of this book was generously provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review (thank you Berkley Publishing Group!)