I did not know what to expect when I picked up this indie novel on Kindle. I knew the writing would be good because I read Molly’s blog. But I wasn’t sure if it was mystery, fantasy, women’s fiction, literary fiction, or what. After spending yesterday glued to my Kindle, and finishing the final chapter at 10 pm, I gotta say, it’s all of that. And it works beautifully on every level.
The story starts with an intriguing snippet from the past, then moves into the present day life of California Realtor Madison and her friends Genny, Gabi, and Anna. Madison’s story structures the novel, but I love the way Greene devotes lots of time to Maddie’s relationships with her friends. They support each other through marriage and cheating and divorce and moving house. They share meals and drinks and secret dreams. I love writers who give their characters strong friendships, and this group is deeply, emotionally, resonant.
Madison’s home base is Sonoma County, where the real estate market is still ticking along quite well. Not as crazy busy as she was before the financial meltdown, Madison fills her free time with buying rundown properties and burnishing them to beautiful jewels. Then she flips them for a tidy profit. She’s never stayed in one place very long, never felt the need to put down roots in one space, until she sees a cozy English cottage on Sonoma Lake and buys it for a song, incurring the wrath of another would-be buyer.
Once Madison moves into her charming bungalow, she starts finding keys. Actual beautiful old keys that don’t seem to open anything. Then, as her remodeling progresses, she unearths secret cubbys and even rooms. She bought the place “as is” with all the furnishings and artifacts of another life and as she begins to uncover the story of the previous owners, her heart starts telling her she needs to find new dreams. And professor of “happiness psychology” Cole is just one of them. Or is he?
Because the more clues she finds, the murkier, and more dangerous, things get. Madison can only be sure of her best friends. Everyone else around her is suspect at best and maybe dangerous as well. It will take all Madison’s faith and trust, plus an angel from the other side, to solve the mystery of the former owners and in the process discover new parts of herself.
Molly Greene’s debut novel is a stunning gem of a book, both beautifully written and compellingly told. The psychological insights are bright lights in a book about grief and healing and so much more. Greene handles a complex plot with deft skill and fully immerses the reader into the mystical world she creates. Madison and her friends will stick with me for a long time.