Every year on March 26th, Verity Peterson visits Ogunquit Beach, where she puts a handwritten message into a bottle and launches it into the waves. It's a ritual of remembrance for the daughter she hasn't seen in sixteen years—not since her baby's father, Alan, took two-month-old Gemma and disappeared. Verity keeps searching and hoping, sustained by the thought that someday she might get to be a mother to her own child. And finally, one phone call may change everything…
Verity learns that Alan is now in jail on abduction charges—and Marni Armstrong, born Gemma Peterson-Burns, is coming to live with Verity in Yorktide, Maine. But this isn't the joyful reunion Verity imagined. Gemma has been raised to believe Verity was an unfit mother who left Alan no choice but to take her out of harm's way. Over the course of one summer, Verity tries to reach a tough, wary young woman who's more stranger than daughter. And Gemma must reexamine everything she thought about her parents—and decide whether to trust in a relationship that, though delicate as a seashell on the surface, could prove to be just as beautiful and resilient.
This had a fantastic plot and characters I wanted to love, but unfortunately, I didn't find it very well written.
This story could have been told in half the time it took. The major conflict didn't come until halfway through, and even then the subsequent chain of events was relatively predictable. I felt that many other opportunities for more authentic and meaningful conflict were missed.
There was a lot of second person that really detracted from the book. In general, the style of writing was kind of annoying, and sometimes contained too many repeated details from both perspectives. There were a couple of times when I just wanted the story to move on and found myself skimming without losing anything of meaning.
I struggled to believe Gemma as a character. The way she acted in the epilogue was far too logical and out of character. The whole Gemma/Marni issue was resolved in a way that I didn't buy at all and found myself questioning often. Her interest in drawing felt forced, and her love of the ocean really isn't as rare as the author made it out to be.
I did enjoy the location of small town Maine where all of the residents know one's business, and the author did a good job in demonstrating how everyone had really played a role in the tragedy.
I wish we'd heard more reasoning behind Alan's decision to take Gemma, because that, too, detracted from the plot. Though he was characterised with a lot of background issues, the move still seemed drastic.
I have enjoyed Chamberlin's other books as easy reads, so I was disappointed to find this one lacking.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.