by Deanna Lynn Sletten
Paperback: 331 pages
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Poring over a dusty hatbox of photographs in her grandmother’s closet, Emily Prentice is shocked to discover her father was married to his high school sweetheart before meeting her mother.
In the summer of 1968, Jack and Libbie fall in love under the spell of their small town, untouched by the chaos of the late sixties. Though Libbie’s well-to-do parents disapprove of Jack’s humble family and his aspiration to become a mechanic, she marries Jack a year after they graduate high school. But soon their happiness crumbles as Libbie’s mental state unravels and she is drawn to alcohol and drugs. Despite his efforts to help her, Jack loses the woman he loves and is forced to move on with his life.
Now that Emily’s mother has passed away, Jack is alone again, and Emily grows obsessed with the beautiful woman who had given her father such joy. Determined to find Libbie, Emily pieces together the couple’s fragmented past. But is it too late for happy endings?
Opening the bottle, she took out one pill and held it in the palm of her hand. It was such a tiny thing, yet it could relieve such heavy pain.
Her thoughts drifted to another room, another bed, another nightstand with a glass on it. That’s when it hit her – she’d become her mother.
Finding Libbie was a difficult and melancholy read for me. I struggled with the profound angst and duplicity occurring during this tale, as those tropes are just not among my favorite things. The story captured my attention from the beginning and I found the premise interesting and intriguing. Recall of good and bad memories of the time period began to surface. I had watched the draft lottery air on black and white television as a child. Similar to Jack and Libbie, I also became of age living in a small inbred town in the 70s, and it brought back – with unsettlingly clarity – memories of living through the era of inflation, Nixon, Viet Nam, protests, and the unfortunate trends of over medicating, Valium abuse, family secrets and covered up shame of mental instability.
I had enjoyed Libbie and Jack’s courtship until Libbie began to unravel. I seriously floundered as the narrative became painfully dreary, tediously repetitive, and mired with Libbie’s abysmal disintegration. I chafed at the injustice and frustration of poor Jack and was near despair when the story finally shifted back to the present timeline and the tension of my body began to ease. I was ever so grateful to have stayed the course as I was moved to tears and actually sobbing by the thoughtful and moving conclusion.
I wrap up my review to advise any angst loving readers bravely readying themselves to dive into the deep end of emotion – I warn you – it broke my heart, but it was worth the agony. Please prepare and gather your comfort foods, libation, and a box of tissues before cracking open page one.
Deanna Lynn Sletten grew up on the sunny coast of Southern California before moving to northern Minnesota as a teenager. Her interest in writing novels was sparked in a college English class, and she has been writing in some form or another ever since. In 2011, Deanna self-published her first novel and has since published several more, both on her own and with Lake Union Publishing.
Deanna enjoys writing heartwarming women’s fiction and romance novels with unforgettable characters. She has also written one middle-grade novel that takes readers on the adventure of a lifetime. She believes in fate, destiny, love at first sight, soul mates, second chances, magic, and happily ever after—all of which are reflected in her novels.
Deanna is married and has two grown children. When not writing, she enjoys walking the wooded trails around her home with her beautiful Australian shepherd or relaxing on her boat in the summer.