by Karen White
Penguin Publishing Group, 2010
Cassie Madison has the life she always dreamed of: a great job, a posh Manhattan apartment, and a handsome fiancé. But a phone call in the middle of the night from the sister she has been estranged from for fifteen years throws everything up in the air. Their father is dying and he wants to see both his children at home with him with him one more time. Cassie returns to her hometown to tell her father goodbye but one thing after another pulls her deeper into new tragedies, the quicksand of her past, and the small town life she left behind.
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Falling Home is a story of forgiveness and putting family first. Cassie must learn to let go of her pride and stubbornness and learn admit when she’s wrong and that it’s alright to care. Her sister Harriet, long time friend Sam Parker, and all the rest of the people in her home town help her to learn about family, friendship, and community.
The thing I liked the most about this book is the characters. The relationships within the family felt very ‘real’ in that they all love each other all the time but sometimes they really make each other angry. It really is true that just because you love someone doesn’t mean you have to like them! The townspeople that pop in and out of the story are quirky and lovable, and make for interesting additions to the story.
The location (entirely fictitious, in case anyone was wondering) is such a huge part of the narrative that it really becomes a character of its own. The author does a great job with descriptions of the scenery, climate, and atmosphere of a small town in the South. She also includes a great deal of town history which makes the reader sympathize with the characters that are concerned with the changes and challenges that face their small town in modern society.
The major theme in Falling Home is the difficult truth that sometimes love equals sacrifice. Taking care of family is a priority over ambition, reputation, and comfort. It can be difficult to respect decisions you disagree with, but putting someone else’s happiness before your own sometimes requires that you be supportive when you want to argue. A minor theme that I alluded to above is learning to deal with the challenges that come with merging the past with the present and preserving history without excluding progress.
Overall it was a good read and I felt very invested in the characters and their problems. It has a fun ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ feel to it, despite the serious nature of some of issues the characters face. The only complaint I have is that there was a little offensive language and a mildly descriptive physical intimacy scene that might make more conservative readers uncomfortable. Neither one of those things was bad enough to make me stop reading, I just find them unnecessary, which I realize is a matter of personal preference. But if that disclaimer doesn’t alarm you, then I encourage you to read this book because it is very well written and hard to put down.
Incidentally, there is a follow-up book to Falling Home called After the Rain, but I haven’t read it yet, so no comments on that one.