Verdict: Deborah Stone’s use of multiple perspectives binds together a narrative that, while occasionally tedious, is filled with relatably flawed characters and emotional turmoil that will keep the reader engaged all the way through to the novel’s cynical, yet hopeful, ending.
When Sasha’s teenage son, Zac, uncovers an old photograph that could lead to the unveiling of a devastating family secret, Sasha quickly finds her entire life collapsing around her. In a story split between several different perspectives—including that of Sasha’s deceased father—Deborah Stone weaves the tale of three generations worth of secrets and broken relationships that could ultimately culminate in the end of life as Sasha knows it.
WHAT’S LEFT UNSAID has several different narrators, but its plot is primarily centered around an unresolved animosity between Sasha and her aging mother, Annie—a conflict that is pulled to the surface when Sasha’s son hires a videographer to make a family documentary. Sasha formerly worked in the advertising field, but has since settled down with a husband, a son, and a freelance writing career that lets her work from home. She’s controlling, uptight, and unhappy in her lackluster marriage. Her characterization is a little heavy-handed at the beginning of the novel—she crosses the line between intriguingly flawed and irritating—but as her marriage begins to fail, the emotional anguish that comes with her middle-age slump makes her easy for readers to empathize with.
Sasha’s mother, Annie, is a harsh woman. She’s always critical of Annie and her family. Annie’s health is declining and she often can’t tell the difference between her memories and the present. She is plagued by unresolved issues in her past, issues that have caused bitterness between her and Sasha. Her experiences during World War II and throughout her husband’s rise to television fame add an extra sense of dimension and depth to the core conflict of WHAT’S LEFT UNSAID.
Parts of WHAT’S LEFT UNSAID can be monotonous, especially when it digs into the history of Annie’s relationship with her deceased husband. But as more of Sasha’s and Annie’s secrets are revealed, the emotional stakes of WHAT’S LEFT UNSAID get higher. By the end of the novel, readers are bound to be deeply invested in the rift between Sasha and Annie, the pain that both women have suffered, and the possibility of their reconciliation.
Deborah Stone’s use of multiple perspectives binds together a narrative that, while occasionally tedious, is filled with relatably flawed characters and emotional turmoil that will keep the reader engaged all the way through to the novel’s cynical, yet hopeful, ending.
~Stephani Hren for IndieReader