Synopsis: Wade Jackson was born and raised in Newfoundland. One day in the university library he meets Rachel van Hout, a young woman who immigrated to Canada from South Africa with her parents a number of years previously. As Wade gets to know Rachel, her parents and three sisters, he discovers that the sisters are all are broken in some way – one is anorexic, one is addicted to drugs and married to a drug dealer, and the third has a string of broken marriages. Rachel’s quirk is that she reads The Diary of Ann Frank obsessively, over and over again and she diarizes her days using a secret language that she made up. When Rachel’s father retires, he and his wife decide to move back to South Africa, and Rachel and Wade agree to go with them and spend six months there as Wade has never left Newfoundland and this gives him an opportunity to see a bit of the world and work on a book he is trying to write. While in South Africa, the façade of the family cracks and everything comes to a head and Wade learns why each daughter is a wounded soul.
My thoughts: When I first started reading this book, I found it difficult as there is a lot of poetry (or ballads) in the book and I am not a lover of poetry but I was still really intrigued by the story and didn’t want to DNF it. I ended up switching to the audiobook version of the book and I found that it worked much better for me. The characters are well developed and while the story line is riveting, I felt myself filled with a dread anticipating what the truth really was that caused these women to be so troubled. Once I switched to the audiobook, I flew through the approximately 550 pages of this book but what blew me away was the afterword from the author. I’m not going to go into details as that would spoil everything but needless to say, my mouth was hanging open by the time I finished reading it.
Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Random House Canada for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I gave this book 4/5 stars on Goodreads.