In the spring of 1981, Ellis Skinner died. His wife, Antonia, was 31-years old and the oldest of his four children was eleven, the youngest just three. His wife, who the children called Noni, retreated to her bedroom following the funeral and didn’t emerge for any substantial activity for the next three years. The children referred to that time as the “Pause” and Renee, the oldest, stepped up and took care of her younger siblings until a relative intervened and Noni emerged. Joe, the only boy and next to the youngest, assumed the role as the man of the household, becoming his sisters’ protector. This one event would indelibly shape each child through adulthood more than any other occurrence in their lives.
The youngest child, Fiona, is the story’s narrator, even though we get each sibling’s point of view from time to time but the perspective’s hers. It also begins in the year 2079, told retrospectively from the “Pause.” You can imagine that each child (Renee, Caroline, Joe and Fiona) would be impacted differently based on their unique personalities and age, which was certainly true here. It’s difficult to single out one of them as being more affected than the other as their experiences ran the range from heartwarming to tragic, depending on pivotal moments throughout their lives. I found them interesting and thought the author did an exceptional job of defining each, so well that I could most often predict their responses to significant situations and life events. What was even more fascinating was how they interacted with each other as they aged, far from predictable.
While I was invested in the story and each character, it was mostly from my head and not my heart. I think my lack of emotional attachment can be attributed to their detachment. What should have bonded them for life didn’t and I felt that “missing,” which was probably the author’s intent. It isn’t the kind of story that’s leading up to something other than the evolution of the life of a family and I found that intriguing. What didn’t work for me was the decision to imply some climatic event that dramatically impacted the future in 2079. It was out of context without being an important element in the overall story. It was confusing and felt contrived. Otherwise, I found it to be thought provoking and relevant. I didn’t always like these people as adults but I certainly understood and found them relatable. I opted for the audio version and am a fan of the narrator, Cassandra Campbell, who delivered another fine performance. However, I think the story would have been better served with multiple narrators, a difficult choice though given the common voice was always Fiona. It’s been days since I finished and I’m still thinking about some of the life lessons of this story.
- Release Date: February 5, 2019
- Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
- Audio Length: 12 hours, 14 minutes
- Publisher: HarperAudio