Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Lemonade Year by Amy Willoughby-Burle

Sometimes, it's the voice. Amy Willoughby-Burle's novel, The Lemonade Year, introduces Nina Griffin, a narrator with a philosopher's voice, a poet's voice, the voice of a woman struggling to find her place in the world.  It's just perfect for this story of a messed up family.

Where did Nina's life take a wrong turn? Was it when her mother drank too much? Was it when her sister, Lola, was hit by a car and her brain became what the doctor referred to as Swiss cheese? Nina's mother poured everything into Lola, and Nina turned to her dad for everything. Nina's brother older brother, Ray, was always angry and took everything out on himself until he ended up in prison. Nina's own marriage? She has a typical fifteen-year-old daughter who doesn't know who to blame when her parents' marriage falls apart, but it's easiest to blame her mother. And, Nina knows her own insistence on trying to have a second child was part of the problem. Then, Nina's father has a stroke and dies.

All of the action in the previous paragraph happens before The Lemonade Year even starts. Nina's a food stylist and photographer whose latest assignment is to photograph images for the book 32 Ways to Make Lemonade. One image at a time, one step at a time, Nina will find a way to make it through this terrible year when her father dies, she and Jack divorce, her daughter turns on her, and her brother, Ray, returns home. Maybe it will take a younger man, the man she unexpectedly kisses in a parking lot after her father dies. Lola's new romance shows promise. Even Ray has hints of hope, if he doesn't mess it up.

It's Nina's voice and Lola's heart that help them through The Lemonade Year. Lola, who uses sticky notes to remember her where things are in her own home, has a gift of lightheartedness and humor. She's a gifted artist who brings love to the story. But, Nina's way with words moves readers along. "I need this release from the grief...I need to find happy again, but I have no idea how to do that." There's the moment when she realizes her daughter is growing up and moving on with her life. "I'm not ready for this. I miss her, and she's still right here."

The Lemonade Year is the story of a messed up family, but there's so much love under the surface. And, it's Nina's account of trying to move through grief and loss and pain to find hope. There's humor and wisdom in this strong novel. Nina's voice is perfect.

Amy Willoughby-Burle's website is

The Lemonade Year by Amy Willoughby-Burle. Shadow Mountain, 2018. ISBN 9781629724119 (paperback), 352p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publicist sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.


Lori's Reading Corner said...

I've had this in my TBR pile for a long time now, I think I need to bump it up. Thanks!!

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Lori. I'll be interested to see what you think.

Beth Hoffman said...

I often put a book down if the voice doesn't resonate with me. The moment you mentioned "voice" with this book I knew I had to put it on my list right away. Thanks, Lesa! Love to you and the kitties.

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Beth! I hope you like it. I think you will. Thank you! Sending lots of love.

Amy Willoughby Burle said...

Hello! I am so flattered to read your review of my book. Thank you. It's especially wonderful to hear that the voice resonated with you. When I'm reading, it's all about voice for me, too. So, I'm happy to have fit the mark on that one. This is a wonderful site! It's lovely to meet you via this blog!

Lesa said...

Thank you, Amy. I was raving about your book today with a friend who's eager to read it. As I said, I loved Nina's voice. But, Lola. Oh, Lola was all heart. Thank you for stopping by and commenting!