Verdict: THE DAMNABLE LEGACY OF A MINISTER’S WIFE is equal parts nail-biting adventure, love story, and family drama, and an entirely engaging read.
Although Beth was the minister’s wife, she wasn’t much of a believer, so when she died of cancer she wasn’t sure what the afterlife would entail. Instead of slipping into nothingness or a picturesque heaven, Beth ends up in limbo: “It seemed as though a curtain slowly opened and a film real unwound, image by image, as I sat in the balcony of a grand old theater… I could think, and I had my senses, but I couldn’t impact anything in the living world.” The “film” she is watching is the lives of her loved ones go on without her, as the events she set into motion before she died unfold.
THE DAMNABLE LEGACY OF A MINISTER’S WIFE is narrated by Beth from this limbo space, which is much less cheesy than it could have been. The conceit is occasionally disruptive of the plot, as Beth interjects her disapproval or bemoans how she wishes she could eat certain foods, but for the most part she objectively observes. Before she died, Beth made her husband Ryan promise he would climb to the top of Denali, and she planned his trip so that his climbing guide would be Lynn Van Swol, the birth mother of their best friend’s adopted daughter and an acclaimed climber. Beth switches between watching the climb up Denali and the troubled life of Frankie, their best friend’s granddaughter (and therefore Lynn’s granddaughter). Both plots are equally gripping, as the climbers face obstacles from the moment they arrive in Alaska that escalate as they ascent, and Frankie commits several crimes in her drastic attempts to escape her drug-addicted mother and the authorities who want her in foster care.
The characters are as complex as the plot, with new secrets and dreams uncovered each chapter. The writing is direct, deftly describing emotions and interactions, and truly shines while describing the mountain views and stunning landscapes of the American West. The third quarter stumbles while juggling a number of new plot twists and Beth’s side commentary becomes particularly disruptive, but the ending is satisfying and uplifting.
THE DAMNABLE LEGACY OF A MINISTER’S WIFE is equal parts nail-biting adventure, love story, and family drama, and an entirely engaging read.