I really like the tag line on Jean Reynolds Page’s new book, Safe Within:
A novel of how family happens—whether you like it or not.
Elaine Forsyth has returned to her childhood home – which happens to be a treehouse on a lake in North Carolina – with her husband Carson, who is in the end stage of cancer. Elaine and Carson have had a happy marriage, with one problem: Carson’s mother, Greta, has never liked Elaine and does not believe Carson is the father of their son, Mick. While Greta refused to have any contact with Elaine or Mick, Carson continued to visit his mother. But after Carson’s death, his family must pick up the pieces of their shattered lives and learn to get along.
Each member of Carson’s remaining family is put to the test after his death and forced to grow in ways they may not like. Greta’s former maid-turned-companion suffers from a health issue that requires Greta to turn to her daughter-in-law and grandson for help, much to her shame and dismay. Elaine has to put aside her own pride and reach out to Greta. Mick, who has come to the lake house from working in a boatyard in Rhode Island, seemingly without a direction in life, doesn’t understand the animosity between his mother and grandmother and is also still mourning the loss of an ex-girlfriend who died tragically.
Safe Within is a novel that shows the many levels of complexity of the individual and the family. Family secrets and motivations are slowly unraveled in fluid prose that highlights each Forsyth family member’s fears and dreams. They each need to accept some past transgressions in order to move on with their lives.
While Carson dies early on in the novel, he is still very much a central figure of the story, the very reason these people are in each other’s lives. In the end it’s Carson’s death that allows the family to finally come together and heal the cracks that have plagued them.
While Safe Within is not action-packed or filled with steamy romance, it’s an engaging but intense book and one that I recommend to those who prefer character over plot and a family you can root for.
Nancy thinks it would be interesting to grow up in a treehouse on a lake. She writes about her 2 boys, books and life in Colorado at Life With My Boys and Books.