KE Payne has created a protagonist that is not only accessible, but almost palpable. The novel opens with Tag Grainger in a situation that many of us will someday find ourselves in; the death of a parent and the necessity to return home. The “home” she is to return to is a fading and forgotten scar.
When she arrives, her arrival itself is inciting to the small town of Balfour. Her older brother has built a wall of anger when it comes to Tag and he can hardly bear to share the room with her, let alone grief over their father’s passing. Her nephew, who was a small child when she left Balfour, is now a teenager who feels he has no one that he can truly open up to but perhaps his aunt Tag. However, time and distance have made the bridge between them seem unsafe to cross.
Strangers whisper. Their whispers blend with the murmurs of ghosts in the Grainger owned café, and mill, and Tag’s persistent memories. Just the atmosphere of the café makes Tag think of her late Mother and of her childhood. Tag has left a life that seemed to be hers in Liverpool; but the more dejected she begins to feel in Balfour, the more she realizes that there isn’t much to return home to in Liverpool either. All that is waiting for her is a sterile apartment that she shares rent for with an ex-girlfriend, Anna. Anna is also her boss. She has a job she loves, but the circumstances crush the joy out of it.
She meets someone in Balfour. Someone that is so full of life and lacking in pretense that she inspires Tag to want more for herself and give more of herself. Freddie Metcalfe is a light to the town even though she has clouds of her own to deal with. Freddie has been let down and left broken-hearted in her past, but she thinks that maybe it is time to risk being hurt for the chance at love again. The problem is she has 5 year-old little girl’s heart to worry about too.
Can Tag discover where home really is? Will Freddie find love sans all the pain? This novel took me to Balfour without overly extensive descriptions. With skillful dialogue, Payne set me in a corner of the Grainger café and I enjoyed being there. I count this story as one of the few I have read in life that make me miss the characters once I’ve finished it.
I received this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. This review is not for pay and is my opinion alone.