What’s it all about?:
Life is in the telling.
With its tree-lined streets, vibrant downtown and curbside planters of spring bulbs, Amberley, Massachusetts, seems a good place for Cate Saunders to start over. It’s been two years since her husband, John, was killed in Iraq and life has been a struggle. Her new job as a caregiver doesn’t pay much, but the locals are welcoming. In fact, Cate has barely unpacked before she’s drawn–reluctantly at first–into a circle of friends.
There’s diner-owner Gaby, who nourishes her customers’ spirits as well as their bodies; feisty Beatrice, who kept the town going when its men marched off to WWII; wise-cracking MaryLou, as formidable as Fort Knox but with the same heart of gold; and, Sheila, whose Italian grocery is the soul of the place. As Amberley reveals itself to be a town shaped by war, Cate encounters another kindred spirit–a Holocaust survivor with whom she feels a deep connection. When revelations about John’s death threaten Cate’s newfound peace of mind, these sisters-in-arms’ stories show her an unexpected way forward. And Cate comes to understand that although we suffer loss alone, we heal by sharing our most treasured memories.
What did I think?:
First of all, a huge thank you to the author of this stunning novel, Ariella Cohen for sending me a copy of her debut novel in return for an honest review. I’m truly honoured that I had an opportunity to read this book, I found it to be a highly satisfying and emotional read and I absolutely loved all the characters that the author has created. The novel itself has elements of both contemporary and historical fiction and I enjoyed how each strand was pulled together to create a narrative that I’m sure will speak to readers on a number of different levels.
Our main character is Cate Saunders, who moves to the small tight-knit town of Amberley, in search of something to take her mind off her overwhelming grief. Her husband, John was a soldier serving in Iraq and was tragically killed by a roadside bomb whilst out on patrol. Almost as soon as Cate enters the town, she is befriended by a number of strong, independent women all of whom are fighting their own somewhat invisible demons. There is Sheila who runs the local store who gives Cate a place to stay, brash yet gentle mechanic Mary-Lou who teaches Cate how to smile again and Gaby who runs the diner who has a strange gift for empathy and builds Cate’s spirit whilst fighting her own personal battles.
Before John died, Cate used to dream of being a writer and as she settles into Amberley, her dream becomes a reality when she finds old journal entries from a previous occupant of her apartment, Miriam, a Jewish refugee who had the most horrific life during World War II when she was sequestered in the notorious Lodz ghetto with her brothers. As Cate learns more about Miriam’s life from the journal entries and from the people who knew and loved her, Cate slowly but surely begins to heal and, bolstered by her new friends, enters a writing competition to tell the previously unknown stories of all the women in the town who have been affected by the horrors of war.
Personally, I felt the most wonderful part about this book (apart from a cracking plot of course!) was the characters drawn by the author. I fell instantly in love with all of them as we witness their own personal hardships and admired how they came together in support of each other as soon as they were needed. I found parts of the story, especially when Cate remembers her husband John and learning about the secrets of Miriam’s tragic past particularly emotional and I thank the author for taking me on a roller-coaster of emotions which left me with an new, entirely positive feeling about life, love and friendship. I’ll certainly be reading the next novel from Ariella Cohen and I’m eagerly hoping that there will be a sequel so that I can catch up with characters where it feels like they are already old and very dear friends.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
Ariella believes in the healing power of cat purrs, coffee, Vivaldi and almond cookies. During the last summer Olympics, she felt compelled to march out to the garden and prove she was still a gymnast. It wasn’t pretty.
A native of Bergen County, NJ, Ariella now lives in New England but her dream self resides in County Mayo, Ireland. She graduated with honors from Barnard College, Columbia University, and attended the Hebrew University in Jerusalem as a Visiting Scholar. Her three years in that city were truly magical. She attended the University of Michigan Law School after which she somehow passed the NY & NJ bars.
Visit her website at http://www.ariellacohenauthor.wordpress.com/
Thank you so much to Ariella for providing me with a copy of her debut novel in exchange for an honest review and inviting me to take part in this blog tour. Sweet Breath Of Memory is due to be released on 28th June 2016 by Kensington Books and is available at all good bookshops including Waterstones and Amazon UK:
Why not check out all the other stops on the blog tour?