Title: The Pieces We Keep by Kristina McMorris
Genre: Contemporary, Historical (WWII)
Length: 464 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
In this richly emotional novel, Kristina McMorris evokes the depth of a mother’s bond with her child, and the power of personal histories to echo through generations…
Two years have done little to ease veterinarian Audra Hughes’s grief over her husband’s untimely death. Eager for a fresh start, Audra plans to leave Portland for a new job in Philadelphia. Her seven-year-old son, Jack, seems apprehensive about flying—but it’s just the beginning of an anxiety that grows to consume him.
As Jack’s fears continue to surface in recurring and violent nightmares, Audra hardly recognizes the introverted boy he has become. Desperate, she traces snippets of information unearthed in Jack’s dreams, leading her to Sean Malloy, a struggling US Army veteran wounded in Afghanistan. Together they unravel a mystery dating back to World War II, and uncover old family secrets that still have the strength to wound—and perhaps, at last, to heal.
Intricate and beautifully written, The Pieces We Keep illuminates those moments when life asks us to reach beyond what we know and embrace what was once unthinkable. Deftly weaving together past and present, herein lies a story that is at once poignant and thought-provoking, and as unpredictable as the human heart.
Kristina McMorris’ The Pieces We Keep is haunting and bittersweet story of two different women, one in the present, one in the past and the inexplicable connection that brings them together. This intriguing and engrossing novel unfolds from both women’s perspectives with the chapters alternating between the two different time periods. The unpredictable and inventive storyline is riveting, but it is the incredible cast of characters that makes this story so utterly captivating.
Beginning with a highly dramatic end to their plane trip, life for grieving widow Audra Hughes and her son Jack is about to spiral out of control. Horrific and recurring night terrors, increasingly violent artwork and unexplained knowledge of wartime events by seven year Jack leave Audra desperately seeking answers for his increasingly bizarre behavior. Her quest to help Jack leads her to very a unusual possible explanation involving wounded Afghanistan solider Sean Malloy and a failed World War II romance between a young American woman and a young German man.
Two years after her husband’s sudden death, Audra is still struggling to balance her work and home life. Thinking a fresh start is what she and Jack both need to move on, Audra is interviewing for jobs out of state when Jack’s problems escalate out of control. Luckily she has a good friend and her former in laws to assist her, but her sleepless nights and increasing concern for Jack take their toll and Audra leaves her job to care for him full time. Jack’s encounter with Sean leads Audra to a startling conclusion and after she confides her suspicions to Jack’s grandparents, she is stunned by their unexpected reaction.
Just as compelling as Audra and Jack’s part of the storyline is the romance that forms between American Vivian James and Isaak, the young man she meets in England in the days leading up to World War II. Separated after the war begins, Vivian’s new life in New York takes an unanticipated detour just as she is on the verge of a new relationship. Vivian is forced to make a decision that has far reaching implications that reverberate for several generations.
The premise of The Pieces We Keep is quite fascinating and it is virtually impossible to fit the pieces of the puzzle together. The parallels between the two women’s emotions and experiences coupled with the chapters ending on suspenseful note keep the pages of the novel briskly turning. Kristina McMorris’ meticulous research and historical accuracy provide a richly detailed backdrop for the unfolding storylines. All of the various threads are tied together in a satisfying conclusion that leaves no question unanswered.
An astounding novel that I recommend to fans of both historical and contemporary fiction.