Broken by their unorthodox midwestern childhood, sisters Catherine, Anne, and Jessica Mathers search for love, acceptance, and worth―often in the most unlikely places. Catherine, the oldest of the Mathers sisters, is an English professor battling breast cancer with Cytoxan, red wine, and profanity. Anne is a wife and stay-at-home mother of two struggling to make ends meet in a suburban existence that both suffocates and confounds her. Jessica, the youngest by ten years and estranged―by choice―from her family, is an exotic dancer who feels safer on stage than in a relationship. But when the sisters are faced with an incomprehensible loss, they are forced to reevaluate themselves, their damaged bonds, and their fragile future. Parting Gifts illuminates one highly dysfunctional family’s tentative, desperate crawl toward a life of meaning and worth.
As part of the April Showers Blog Tour, I received Parting Gifts by Katrina Willis. I had never heard of this author, but when I read the back cover of this book, I couldn’t wait to read it.
Before you read any further, I want you to know that I read this book – cover to cover – in one sitting. I casually browsed the first chapter wondering when I’d finish the book, got wrapped up in the story to the extent that I didn’t find it necessary to get dressed, comb my hair or leave the house until I turned the last page of the story. In case that doesn’t tell you anything, in plain English this means that this book was a great read. (Ann T. – I’ll lend you my copy!)
Parting Gifts is the story of three very different sisters and how they come together in the end as they overcome their own personal and shared tragedies. The common thread between these sisters is the fact that they shared the same parents who never seemed to be present as they were growing up. I never had a sister, but I always imagined I would have been close to one if I had a sister. This story was interesting in that the three sisters seemed to separate from each other when, given their circumstances in life, they would have gravitated toward each other for solace, love, companionship and guidance seeing as they all three were in the same “life boat”.
Catherine Mathers is the oldest of three sisters – she’s single and a college professor, and she’s battling breast cancer. Next is Anne – the middle sister, who is married with two young kids and she’s struggling just to make ends meet. The youngest sister, Jessica is ten years younger, ran away from home at eighteen to California and totally estranged herself from the family.
I love how Catherine’s character evolves in this story, how Julie helped her heart and her eyes open to how others might feel about certain situations, and how she missed those who had slipped from her life. And then there’s Anne, poor Anne over-analyzing everything, silently carrying so much burden until finally opening up to her own husband. When it feels like their family is starting to get their lives together back on track, the unthinkable happens to Max. It was really heartbreaking to stand by and watch Anne’s inability to move forward and her husband, Dale’s inability to help her.
Finally there’s Jessica’s story. Throughout the book, we get pieces of Jessica’s life and how she has traveled her own road, quite alone and as a reader, I was sad about the life she was living (or really, the life she wasn’t living). It seems all she wants is to know how to live like a “normal” person – to know love and be loved. I was so worried about her staying in the same rut for the rest of her life, until I was able to see the change at the very end and then I had hope for Jessica’s future.
About halfway through this book, I found this little tidbit:
“Life is too short to worry about who’s right and who’s wrong…. We waste so much time and energy to get people to see things our way. In the end, does it really matter?”
As a Christian who completely believes in a kind and loving God, it was interesting to watch different members of this family go to the Catholic prayer chants when they needed God’s help. They said the prayers they were taught, but failed to connect with God in their hearts. I kept thinking if I was there I would tell them to drop the memorized words, and share with God, talk to Him, ask for His guidance and He would help them.
On the rating system of stars, I would totally give this book 5+ stars on a 1-5 scale. This is Ms. Willis’ first book and I can’t wait to read more. I even think that this book would make a beautiful series so we readers could learn how the sisters and their families change and grow in the future. It was a quick, but very enjoyable read!
Katrina Anne Willis , a Hoosier currently living in Ohio, is married to her high school sweetheart and is the mother of four teenagers. An author, blogger, and essayist, Katrina was named a 2011 Midwest Writers Fellow, is a 2013 Indianapolis Listen to Your Mother show alum, and enjoys writing for Mamalode and Indy’s Child. She was named a 2015 BlogHer Voice of the Year for her essay, “When I Inhabit Too Much Space.”
Katrina can often be found reading the next book on her ever-expanding list, doing Pilates, spending time with her witty and brilliant friends, folding laundry ad nauseum, and drinking a bit of red wine. And then a bit more.
Thanks to BookSparks for the advance reader’s digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest review as part of their April Showers Blog Tour -#itsrainingbooks!