The Sum of our Sorrows by Lisette Brodey

Book Description

In an idyllic suburb in Northern California, tragedy strikes the Sheppard family when Abby, the mother of three daughters and wife to Dalton, is killed in a car accident. Charlotte, the middle daughter, is in the car with her mother and survives without physical injury but remains deeply scarred on the inside.

Dalton tells Lily, his eldest daughter, that she must sacrifice long-awaited college plans and put her life on hold to take care of her sisters. Lily is torn between her devotion to family and an increasing need to find her place in the world — but how can she leave, knowing her family may crumble? Will her presence eventually cause more problems than it resolves? 

The Sum of our Sorrows reveals how the aftermath of a family tragedy can precipitate sorrows never imagined. It is a tale of grief, hope, healing, coming-of-age, friendship, and survival. It is also a love story of two broken souls living through pain in search of better days and the renewal of one’s spirit.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I write characters as I hear them speak to me. Some of these stories contain non-gratuitous expletives and sexual references. This book also contains some situations that may be triggering to some readers. If this is not to your liking, please don’t read this book. Thank you.

My Review

4/5 stars
I received a Kindle version of this book from the author in return for an honest review, and am reviewing it on behalf of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team – thank you Rosie and Lisette.

This book is an emotional roller coaster ride. It begins at the funeral of a mother of three, who died in a horrific car crash while her middle child, Charlotte, watched and continues relentlessly as her family tries to deal with the emotional and psychological  fallout caused by this tragedy.

Lily, the eldest daughter and main character of this book, has her life turned upside down almost immediately by her stern, unlikeable father announcing that she must take over both running the household and raising her two younger sisters, while forgoing her job at the diner with her friends and also her place at design school in LA in the Fall. Try as I might to forgive the widowed father’s stern demeanor and cold manner towards his girls I found him completely unlikeable and the way he disregarded his grieving eldest child’s needs unforgivable.

I enjoyed the adorable sisterly dynamic between the three girls, particularly the close bond between Lily and her youngest sister Willow. The antagonism between the middle child, Charlotte and her replacement caregiver, Lily was frustrating and I kept yelling at my Kindle that the whole family needed grief counseling!!

The youngest daughter, Willow does seem to be written much older than twelve. I have a twelve year old son and most communication consists of grunts and declarations of hunger!!

I also think most nineteen year olds are much more self-centered than poor put-upon, modern day Cinderella, Lily. However mild mannered she might be I think she would have railed against her father’s decisions much more and something would have given sooner than it actually did. Lily is also far too insightful for her years. There is a conversation after a party, where she talks like she has so much life and relationship experience to draw from.

Charlotte’s nightmare helps Lily understand exactly how traumatized Charlotte is:

Charlotte opened her eyes, her tear-streaked face and look of absolute terror hitting Lily in a way she hadn’t allowed herself to fully grasp before. In that moment, Lily was there in the car during the tragic moment that changed her family’s lives forever. She saw her mother’s light go out in as little time as it took to scream her name.

Lisette Brodey

None of the characters in this book have an easy ride, there is so much pain and suffering, whether caused by events in the story or in the characters’ pasts. Dak, who Lily becomes reacquainted with in Malibu, has some insight into how to keep going when consumed by tragedy:

And then I thought about the waves … they drew me here too. Look at how they break … but see how they gather their strength and form again … only to keep breaking … over and over again? This is exactly what life makes us do if we want to keep going. We have to learn how to break.

Dak Falaman via Lisette Brodey

The second half of the book moves away from the tragic events of the first and we meet a larger than life waitress called Bonnie, short for Bonstance Constance Universe. She is quite a character. Her turn of phrase is unique and hysterical. 

The story also develops into a love story at this point and I found myself relieved for Lily that she was finally catching a break!

There are themes in this story which could act as triggers for certain readers. That is all I am prepared to say without “spoiling” anything! 

I enjoyed The Sum of our Sorrows and read it fairly quickly. I did feel that all the loose ends got tied together a bit too nicely in a bow at the end – but I was willing to suspend my disbelief in light of all the separate tragedies these poor people had suffered!

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About the Author

Lisette was born and raised in the Philadelphia area. She spent ten years in New York City, and now resides in Los Angeles.

She’s a multi-genre author of nine novels and one short story collection: Crooked Moon (General/Literary Fiction); Squalor, New Mexico (Coming-of-Age/Literary Fiction); Molly Hacker Is Too Picky! (Women’s Fiction/romantic comedy), The Desert Series: Mystical High; Desert Star; and Drawn Apart (YA paranormal/magical realism), Barrie Hill Reunion (Literary Fiction); Hotel Obscure: A Collection of Short Stories (Literary Fiction), Love, Look Away (Women’s Fiction/romantic comedy), and The Sum of our Sorrows (Contemporary Fiction.)

In addition to her nine novels and one short story collection, two more of Lisette’s short stories are published in an anthology: Triptychs (Book 3, The Mind’s Eye Series).

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