I really found myself struggling with this book. The narrative is broken into four distinct time sections, yet within each section, the narrative switches between characters, and jumps forward in time. It made for a very disjointed read overall. The book follows one family, and most of the characters appear in multiple, if not all four, sections, yet I found it very difficult to connect to any character. For example, Helen appears as a child in the first section, a young lady in the second, a middle aged mother in the third, and a dying senior citizen in the fourth. Yet, I was unable to connect any one of these versions to the others, because I never actually got to know Helen as a character. It is like when you meet someone as an adult, and see a photograph of them as a child; without knowing the person well, it is hard to see anything of the adult before you in the child in the photo.
The writing itself is quite lovely. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of the natural landscape of Ashaunt. New England is so particular, with specific social quirks and nuances, it was difficult for me to relate. It was as if I had been given a private view into the life of a Kennedy-esque family, and struggle to understand their everyday lives. Yet, despite the difference in social standing, at the heart of story were universal truths: love, life, death, illness. No amount of social standing can allow a family to escape those realities.
Fans of contemporary fiction may connect to this book better than I seemed to be able to. I found the narrative jarring, and as a result this book failed to hold my attention.