3 out of 4 stars
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Barbara Malone, after spending decades in an unhappy marriage, has just become a widow. Now that her kids are grown and don’t need her as much anymore, she longs to help others and give her life meaning. After careful contemplation, she decides to join the Peace Corps and put her nursing skills to use in the mountains of Honduras. Her parents, mother-in-law, and four children are at first horrified by her choice, but they soon realize that they won’t be able to change her mind and begrudgingly see her off on the biggest adventure of her life.
Mother Love by Ann McCauley is the second book in the Willow Lane series. However, it can easily be read as a standalone, as the first book is about an entirely different family on the same street. The book begins with a tape-recorded message Barbara has sent to all of her children, explaining her decision to join the Peace Corps. From there, the point of view alternates between Barbara and each of her four kids, as Barbara takes off to the jungle and her kids go on living their own lives in the United States. Much of the book is comprised of phone conversations between the siblings and their grandparents.
My favorite part of this book was that it exposed me to a view of what life is like in the rural mountains of Honduras. The villagers live in poverty but seem to be more content than the affluent people Barbara knows back home. Most of the people are friendly, caring, and generous with what little they have. Barbara also witnesses firsthand the conflict between the “banditos” and the corrupt Honduran government, and she sees how their battles negatively impact the lives of the innocent citizens.
Barbara experiences her share of joy and heartache as she serves her patients and makes friends in Honduras. She eventually begins to question where she truly belongs. Her character has depth and her emotions are real and relatable, and I found myself chuckling as well as holding back tears as I turned the pages of the book. Her adult children also have their own distinct personalities as they make their way through life. Their relationship and career challenges, as well as their nagging fear for their mother’s safety, are also very believable.
The only aspect I didn’t like about the book was that as information traveled through the phone chain from sibling to sibling to grandparent, reading became extremely repetitive at times. While in real life it’s true someone will often have to repeat news several times within a large family, in a novel it can really slow down the momentum of the story and make for very tedious reading.
Overall, this book was well edited. I only noticed a handful of errors, none of which really detracted from the plot. Taking into consideration the wonderful cultural component of the novel, as well as the great character development, I award this book 3 out of 4 stars. If there had been less repetitive content, I would have been happy to give it a perfect rating. This book definitely qualifies as chick lit, and I think it would be a great choice for any woman who likes to read about relatable life challenges and the emotions that come with them. Although there is no graphic violence, sexual content, or profanity, I would still recommend this to adult audiences who have “been there” and can relate to the characters and their lives.
Mother Love, Willow Lane, Book Two
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