The Things We Do for Love

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New York Times bestselling author Kristin Hannah “touches the deepest, most tender corner of our hearts” (Tami Hoag). Her last novel, Between Sisters, was chosen by CBS’s The Early Show as one of the best books of the summer. Now she returns with The Things We Do for Love—a poignant, evocative story that celebrates the magic of motherhood, the joys of coming home, and the price we so willingly pay for love.

The youngest of three daughters, Angela DeSaria Malone was always “the ...

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New York Times bestselling author Kristin Hannah “touches the deepest, most tender corner of our hearts” (Tami Hoag). Her last novel, Between Sisters, was chosen by CBS’s The Early Show as one of the best books of the summer. Now she returns with The Things We Do for Love—a poignant, evocative story that celebrates the magic of motherhood, the joys of coming home, and the price we so willingly pay for love.

The youngest of three daughters, Angela DeSaria Malone was always “the princess” of the family, a girl who thought she knew how her life would unfold. High School. College. Marriage. Motherhood. That was how it had gone for her sisters, her cousins, her friends. But it didn’t work out that way for Angie. She and her husband tried desperately to have a child; year after year, their perfectly decorated nursery remained empty. Finally, their marriage collapsed under the weight of lost dreams.
After the divorce, Angie moved back to her hometown and rejoined her loud, loving, slightly crazy family. In West End, a place where life rises and falls in time with the tides, she will find the man who once again will open her heart to love . . . and meet the girl who will change Angie’s life.
Lauren Ribido lives in a rundown apartment in a bad part of town with a mother who cares more about her next drink than about her daughter. At seventeen, Lauren knows that her aspirations in life may never come to pass.

From the moment they meet, Angie sees something special in Lauren. They form a quick connection, this woman who is desperate for a daughter and the girl who has never known a mother’s love. When Lauren is abandoned by her mother, Angie doesn’t hesitate to offer the girl a place to stay.
But nothing could have prepared Angie for the far-reaching repercussions of this act of kindness. In a dramatic turn of events, she and Lauren will be tested in a way that mothers and daughters seldom are. Together they will embark on an intensely moving, deeply emotional journey to the very heart of what it means to be a family.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Hannah captures the joy and heartache of family as she draws the reader into the lives of her characters and makes them feel like personal friends.”—Booklist
“Wrenching, convincing . . . bittersweet.”—Publishers Weekly

“Wonderful . . . enormously touching . . . The warmth and complexities of these characters grab hold of the heartstrings.”—RT Book Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this tear-jerking novel by Hannah (Between Sisters), 38-year-old Angela Malone abandons a successful advertising career in Seattle to find comfort in West End, the small Pacific Northwest coastal town where she grew up. Pregnancy woes (chronic miscarriages, a baby who lived only for five days and a botched adoption) have caused her marriage to journalist Conlan to end in divorce. Her big, warmhearted Italian family welcomes her with open arms, and she throws herself into revamping the family restaurant, DeSaria's. Then she befriends hard-working teenager Lauren Ribido, who's in need of a new coat, some mothering and, later on, a place to live. Lauren's life is far worse than self-pitying Angie's-she's pregnant, her alcoholic mother has given up on her, and her rich boyfriend, David, is off to his first-choice college. Lauren can't go through with the abortion David encourages her to have, and the next step seems obvious: she should give the baby up to Angie, who's on the way to reconciling with Conlan. Hannah stacks the odds against Lauren almost absurdly, and makes her life with Angie a rose-tinted dream come true, but she paints a wrenching, convincing picture of the dilemma teenage mothers face. Familiar but warmly rendered characters, a few surprising twists and a bittersweet ending make this satisfying summer reading. Agent, Andrea Cirillo. 6-city author tour. (June) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In her latest novel, Hannah (On Mystic Lake) tells the story of a woman so consumed by her inability to have a child that her relationships with her family, her friends, and especially her husband are damaged. After divorcing, Angie Malone returns home to care for her aging mother and try to salvage the family's floundering restaurant business. She offers the teenaged Lauren Ribido a job as a waitress. Cautious about becoming too emotionally involved with the young woman, Angie watches Lauren cope with school, a distant and perpetually drunk mother, and a romantic relationship with a wealthy high school boyfriend. When an unexpected (but predictable) pregnancy forces Lauren to give up her dreams, Angie must come to grips with how much help she can offer the young woman. Hannah strikes a serious and quite somber chord, bringing a thoughtful, insightful touch to Angie's attempts to restart her marriage, bond with her siblings, and assist Lauren. The romantic aspect of the novel takes a distant second place to the relationship between the two women and the complicated issues of grief, childbearing, and acceptance. A worthwhile addition to any public library fiction collection. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/04.]-Margaret Hanes, Sterling Heights P.L., MI Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Life lessons. Angie Malone, the youngest of a big, warm Italian-American family, returns to her Pacific Northwest hometown to wrestle with various midlife disappointments: her divorce, Papa's death, a downturn in business at the family restaurant, and, above all, her childlessness. After several miscarriages, she, a successful ad exec, and husband Conlan, a reporter, befriended a pregnant young girl and planned to adopt her baby-and then the birth mother changed her mind. Angie and Conlan drifted apart and soon found they just didn't love each other anymore. Metaphorically speaking, "her need for a child had been a high tide, an overwhelming force that drowned them. A year ago, she could have kicked to the surface but not now." Sadder but wiser, Angie goes to work in the struggling family restaurant, bickering with Mama over updating the menu and replacing the ancient waitress. Soon, Angie befriends another young girl, Lauren Ribido, who's eager to learn and desperately needs a job. Lauren's family lives on the wrong side of the tracks, and her mother is a promiscuous alcoholic, but Angie knows nothing of this sad story and welcomes Lauren into the DeSaria family circle. The girl listens in, wide-eyed, as the sisters argue and make wisecracks and-gee-whiz-are actually nice to each other. Nothing at all like her relationship with her sluttish mother, who throws Lauren out when boyfriend David, en route to Stanford, gets her pregnant. Will Lauren, who's just been accepted to USC, let Angie adopt her baby? Well, a bit of a twist at the end keeps things from becoming too predictable. Heartfelt, yes, but pretty routine. Doubleday Book Club selection; Literary Guild/Doubleday Large Print Clubfeatured alternate selection. Agent: Andrea Cirillo/Jane Rotrosen Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345467515
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/28/2005
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 967,101
  • Product dimensions: 4.16 (w) x 6.84 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

Kristin Hannah

Kristin Hannah is the bestselling author of On Mystic Lake, Angel Falls, Summer Island, Distant Shores, and Between Sisters. She lives with her husband and son in the Pacific Northwest. Visit her online at

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Read an Excerpt


The streets of West End were crowded on this unex- pectedly sunny day. All across town mothers stood in open doorways, with hands tented across their eyes, watching their children play. Everyone knew that soon—probably tomorrow—a soapy haze would creep across the sky, covering the blue, obliterating the delicate sun, and once more the rain would fall.

It was May, after all, in the Pacific Northwest. Rain came to this month as surely as ghosts took to the streets on the thirty-first of October and salmon came home from the sea.

“It sure is hot,” Conlan said from the driver’s seat of the sleek black BMW convertible. It was the first thing he’d said in almost an hour.

He was trying to make conversation; that was all. Angie should return the volley, perhaps mention the beautiful haw- thorn trees that were in bloom. But even as she had the thought, she was exhausted by it. In a few short months, those tiny green leaves would curl and blacken; the color would be drawn out of them by cold nights, and they would fall to the ground, unno- ticed.

When you looked at it that way, what was the point in noticing so fleeting a moment?

She stared out the window at her hometown. It was the first time she’d been back in months. Although West End was only one hundred twenty miles from Seattle, that distance had seemed to swell lately in her mind. As much as she loved her family, she’d found it difficult to leave her own house. Out in the world, there were babies everywhere.

They drove into the old part of town, where Victorian houses had been built one after another on tiny patches of lawn. Huge, leafy maple trees shaded the street, cast an intricate lacework pattern of light on the asphalt. In the seventies, this neighborhood had been the town’s heart. Kids had been everywhere back then, riding their Big Wheels and Schwinn bicycles from one house to the next. There had been block parties every Sunday after church, and games of Red Rover played in every back-yard.

In the years between then and now, this part of the state had changed, and the old neighborhoods had fallen into silence and disrepair. Salmon runs had diminished and the timber industry had been hit hard. People who had once made their living from the land and the sea had been pushed aside, forgotten; new residents built their houses in clusters, in subdivisions named after the very trees they cut down.

But here, on this small patch of Maple Drive, time had stood still. The last house on the block looked exactly as it had for forty years. The white paint was pure and perfect; the emerald green trim glistened. No weed had ever been allowed to flourish in the lawn. Angie’s father had tended to this house for four decades; it had been his pride and joy. Every Monday, after a weekend of hard work at the family’s restaurant, he’d devoted a full twelve-hour day to home and garden maintenance. Since his death, Angie’s mother had tried to follow that routine. It had become her solace, her way of connecting with the man she’d loved for almost fifty years, and when she tired of the hard work, someone was always ready to lend a hand. Such help, Mama often reminded them, was the advantage to having three daughters. Her payoff, she claimed, for surviving their teen years.

Conlan pulled up to the curb and parked. As the convertible top shushed mechanically into place, he turned to Angie. “Are you sure you’re okay with this?”

“I’m here, aren’t I?” She turned to look at him finally. He was exhausted; she saw the glint of it in his blue eyes but knew he wouldn’t say more, wouldn’t say anything that might remind her of the baby they’d lost a few months ago.

They sat there, side by side in silence. The air-conditioner made a soft whooshing noise.

The old Conlan would have leaned over and kissed her now, would have told her he loved her, and those few and tender words would have saved her, but they were past such comfort these days. The love they’d once shared felt far, far away, as faded and lost as her childhood.

“We could leave right now. Say the car broke down,” he said, trying to be the man he used to be, the man who could tease his wife into smiling.

She didn’t look at him. “Are you kidding? They all think we paid too much for this car. Besides, Mama already knows we’re here. She might talk to dead people, but she has the hearing of a bat.”

“She’s in the kitchen making ten thousand cannoli for twenty people. And your sisters haven’t stopped talking since they walked in the door. We could escape in the confusion.” He smiled. For a moment everything felt normal between them, as if there were no ghosts in the car. She wished it were an ease that could last.

“Livvy cooked three casseroles,” she muttered. “Mira probably crocheted a new tablecloth and made us all matching aprons.”

“Last week you had two pitch meetings and a commercial shoot. It’s hardly worth your time to cook.”

Poor Conlan. Fourteen years of marriage and he still didn’t understand the dynamics of the DeSaria family. Cooking was more than a job or a hobby; it was a kind of currency, and Angie was broke. Her papa, whom she’d idolized, had loved that she couldn’t cook. He took it as a badge of success. An immigrant who’d come to this country with four dollars in his pocket and made a living feeding other immigrant families, he’d been proud that his youngest daughter made money using her head, rather than her hands.

“Let’s go,” she said, not wanting to think about Papa.

Angie got out of the car and went around to the trunk. It opened silently, revealing a narrow cardboard box. Inside was an extravagantly rich chocolate cake made by the Pacific Dessert Company and a to-die-for lemon tart. She reached down for it, knowing some comment would be made about her inability to cook. As the youngest daughter—“the princess”—she’d been allowed to color or talk on the phone or watch TV while her sisters worked in the kitchen. None of her sisters ever let her forget that Papa had spoiled her mercilessly. As adults, her sisters still worked in the family restaurant. That was real work, they always said, unlike Angie’s career in advertising.

“Come on,” Conlan said, taking her arm.

They walked up the concrete walkway, past the fountain of the Virgin Mary, and up the steps. A statue of Christ stood by the door, his hands outstretched in greeting. Someone had hung an umbrella from his wrist.

Conlan knocked perfunctorily and opened the door.

The house rattled with noise—loud voices, kids running up and down the stairs, ice buckets being refilled, laughter. Every piece of furniture in the foyer was buried beneath a layer of coats and shoes and empty food boxes.

The family room was full of children playing games. Candy Land for the younger kids; crazy eights for the older. Her eldest nephew, Jason, and her niece Sarah were playing Nintendo on the television. At Angie’s entrance, the kids squealed and flocked to her, all talking at once, vying for her attention. From their earliest memories, she was the aunt who would get down on the floor and play with whatever toy was “in” at the moment. She never turned down their music or said that a movie was unsuitable. When asked, they all said Aunt Angie was “way cool.”

She heard Conlan behind her, talking to Mira’s husband, Vince. A drink was being poured. She eased through the crowd of kids and walked down the hallway toward the kitchen.

In the doorway, she paused. Mama stood at the oversized butcher block in the center of the room, rolling out the sweet dough. Flour obscured half of her face and dusted her hair. Her eyeglasses—a holdover from the seventies—had lenses the size of saucers and magnified her brown eyes. Tiny beads of sweat collected along her brow and slid down her floury cheeks, landing on her bosom in little blobs of dough. In the five months since Papa’s passing, she’d lost too much weight and stopped dyeing her hair. It was snow white now.

Mira stood at the stove, dropping gnocchi into a pot of boil- ing water. From behind, she looked like a girl. Even after bearing four children, she was still tiny, almost birdlike, and since she often wore her teenage daughter’s clothes, she appeared ten years younger than her forty-one years. Tonight, her long black hair was held back in a braid that snaked almost to her waist. She wore a pair of low-rise, flare-legged black pants and a cable-knit red sweater. She was talking now—there was no surprise in that; she was always talking. Papa had always joked that his eldest daughter sounded like a blender on high speed.

Livvy was standing off to the left, slicing fresh mozzarella. She looked like a Bic pen in her black silk sheath. The only thing higher than her heels was the puffiness of her teased hair. Long ago, Livvy had left West End in a rush, certain that she could become a model. She’d stayed in Los Angeles until the sentence “Could you please undress now?” started to accompany every job interview. Five years ago, just after her thirty-fourth birthday, she’d come home, bitter at her lack of success, defeated by the effort, dragging with her two young sons who had been fathered by a man none of the family had ever seen or met. She’d gone to work at the family restaurant, but she didn’t like it. She saw herself as a big-city girl trapped in a small town. Now she was married—again; it had been a quickie ceremony last week at the Chapel of Love in Las Vegas. Everyone hoped that Salvatore Traina—lucky choice number three—would finally make her happy.

Angie smiled. So much of her time had been spent in this kitchen with these three women; no matter how old she got or what direction her life took, this would always be home. In Mama’s kitchen, you were safe and warm and well loved. Though she and her sisters had chosen different lives and tended to meddle too often in one another’s choices, they were like strands of a single rope. When they came together, they were unbreakable. She needed to be a part of that again; she’d been grieving alone for too long.

She stepped into the kitchen and put the box down on the table. “Hey, guys.”

Livvy and Mira surged forward, enfolded her in a hug that smelled of Italian spices and drugstore perfume. They held her tightly; Angie felt the wetness of tears on her neck, but nothing was said except “It’s good to have you home.”

“Thanks.” She gave her sisters one last tight hug, then went to Mama, who opened her arms. Angie stepped into the warmth of that embrace. As always, Mama smelled of thyme, Tabu perfume, and Aqua Net hair spray. The scents of Angie’s youth.

Mama hugged her so tightly that Angie had to draw in a gulp of air. Laughing, she tried to step back, but Mama held on.

Angie stiffened instinctively. The last time Mama had held Angie this tightly, Mama had whispered, You’ll try again. God will give you another baby.

Angie pulled out of the embrace. “Don’t,” she said, trying to smile.

That did it—just the quietly voiced plea. Mama reached for the Parmesan grater and said, “Dinner’s ready. Mira, get the kids to the table.”

The dining room held fourteen people comfortably and fifteen tonight. An ancient mahogany table, brought here from the old country, held center stage in a big, windowless room papered in rose and burgundy. An ornate wooden crucifix hung on the wall beside a portrait of Jesus. Adults and children were crammed around the table. Dean Martin sang in the other room.

“Let us pray,” Mama said as soon as everyone was seated. When silence didn’t fall instantly, she reached over and thwopped Uncle Francis on the head.

Francis dropped his chin and closed his eyes. Everyone followed suit and began the prayer. Their voices joined as one: “Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounty through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

When the prayer ended, Mama stood up quickly, raised her wineglass. “We drink a toast now to Sal and Olivia.” Her voice vibrated; her mouth trembled. “I do not know what to say. Toasting is a man’s job.” She abruptly sat down.

Mira touched Mama’s shoulder and stood up. “We welcome Sal to our family. May you two find the kind of love that Mama and Papa had. May you have full cupboards and warm bedrooms and—” She paused. Her voice softened. “—many healthy babies.”

Instead of laughter and clapping and clanking glasses, there was silence.

Angie drew a sharp breath and looked up at her sisters.

“I’m not pregnant,” Livvy said quickly. “But . . . we’re trying.”

Angie managed to smile, although it was wobbly and weak and fooled no one. Everyone was looking at her, wondering how she would handle another baby in the family. They all tried so hard not to bruise her.

She raised her glass. “To Sal and Livvy.” She spoke quickly, hoping her tears would pass for joy. “May you have many healthy babies.”

Conversations started up again. The table became a frenzy of clanging forks and knives scratching on porcelain and laughter. Although this family gathered for every holiday and two Monday nights a month, they never ran out of things to say.

Angie glanced around the table. Mira was talking animatedly to Mama about a school fund-raiser that needed to be catered; Vince and Uncle Francis were arguing about last week’s Huskies– Ducks game; Sal and Livvy were kissing every now and then; the younger kids were spitting peas at one another; and the older ones were arguing about whether Xbox or PlayStation was better. Conlan was asking Aunt Giulia about her upcoming hip replacement surgery.

Angie couldn’t concentrate on any of it. She certainly couldn’t make idle conversation. Her sister wanted a baby, and so it would happen. Livvy would probably get pregnant between Leno and the news. Oops, I forgot my diaphragm. That was how it happened for her sisters.

After dinner, as Angie washed the dishes, no one spoke to her, but everyone who walked past the sink squeezed her shoulder or kissed her cheek. Everyone knew there were no more words to say. Hopes and prayers had been offered so many times over the years, they’d lost their sheen. Mama had kept a candle burning at St. Cecilia’s for almost a decade now, and still it would be Angie and Conlan alone in the car tonight, a couple who’d never multiplied into a family.

Finally, she couldn’t stand it anymore. She tossed the dishrag on the table and went up to her old bedroom. The pretty little room, still wallpapered in roses and white baskets, held twin beds ruffled in pink bedding. She sat down on the end of her bed.

Ironically, she’d once knelt on this very floor and prayed not to be pregnant. She’d been seventeen at the time, dating Tommy Matucci. Her first love.

The door opened and Conlan walked in. Her big, black-haired Irishman husband looked ridiculously out of place in her little girl’s room.

“I’m fine,” she said.

“Yeah, right.”

She heard the bitterness in his voice, felt stung by it. There was nothing she could do, though. He couldn’t comfort her; God knew that had been proven often enough.

“You need help.” He said it tiredly, and no wonder. The words were old.

“I’m fine.”

He stared at her for a long time. The blue eyes that had once looked at her with adoration now held an almost unbearable defeat. With a sigh, he turned and left the room, closing the door behind him.

A few moments later it opened again. Mama stood in the doorway, her fists planted on her narrow hips. The shoulder pads on her Sunday dress were Blade Runner big and practically touched the door frame on either side. “You always did run to your room when you were sad. Or angry.”

Angie scooted sideways to make room. “And you always came running up after me.”

“Your father made me. You never knew that, did you?” Mama sat down beside Angie. The old mattress sagged beneath their weight. “He could not stand to see you cry. Poor Livvy could shriek her lungs out and he never noticed. But you . . . you were his princess. One tear could break his heart.” She sighed. It was a heavy sound, full of disappointment and empathy. “You’re thirty-eight years old, Angela,” Mama said. “It’s time to grow up. Your papa—God rest his soul—would have agreed with me on this.”

“I don’t even know what that means.”

Mama slipped an arm around her, pulled her close. “God has given you an answer to your prayers, Angela. It is not the answer you wanted, so you don’t hear. It’s time to listen.”

Angie woke with a start. The coolness on her cheeks was from tears.

She’d had the baby dream again; the one in which she and Conlan stood on opposite shores. Between them, on the shimmering expanse of blue sea, was a tiny pink-swaddled bundle. Inch by inch, it floated away and disappeared. When it was gone, they were left alone, she and Conlan, standing too far apart.

It was the same dream she’d been having for years, as she and her husband trudged from doctor’s office to doctor’s office, trying one procedure after another. Supposedly she was one of the lucky ones; in eight years, she’d conceived three children. Two had ended in miscarriage; one—her daughter, Sophia—had lived for only a few short days. That had been the end of it. Neither she nor Conlan had the heart to try again.

She eased away from her husband, grabbed her pink chenille robe off the floor, and left the bedroom.

The shadowy hallway waited for her. To her right, dozens of family photographs, all framed in thick mahogany, covered the wall. Portraits of five generations of DeSarias and Malones.

She looked down the long hallway at the last, closed door. The brass knob glinted in moonlight from the nearby window.

When was the last time she’d dared to enter that room?

God has given you an answer. . . . It’s time to listen.

She walked slowly past the stairs and the vacant guest room to the final door.

There she drew in a deep breath and exhaled it. Her hands were trembling as she opened the door and went inside. The air felt heavy in here, old and musty.

She turned on the light and closed the door behind her.

The room was so perfect.

She closed her eyes, as if darkness could help. The sweet notes of Beauty and the Beast filled her mind, took her back to the first time she’d closed the door on this room, so many years ago. It was after they’d decided on adoption.

We have a baby, Mrs. Malone. The mother—a teenager—chose you and Conlan. Come down to my office and meet her.

It had taken Angie the full four hours until their appointment to choose the outfit and do her makeup. When she and Conlan finally met Sarah Dekker in the lawyer’s office, the three of them had bonded instantly. We’ll love your child, Angie had promised the girl. You can trust us.

For six wonderful months Angie and Conlan had given up trying to get pregnant. Sex had become fun again; they’d fallen effortlessly back in love. Life had been good. There had been hope in this house. They’d celebrated with their families. They’d brought Sarah into their home and shared their hearts with her. They’d accompanied her to every OB appointment. Two weeks before her due date, Sarah had come home with some stencils and paint. She and Angie had decorated this room. A sky blue ceiling and walls, crowded by puffy white clouds. White picket fencing entwined with bright flowers, their colorful faces attended to by bees and butterflies and fairies.

The first sign of disaster had come on the day Sarah went into labor. Angie and Conlan had been at work. They’d come home to an empty, too-quiet house, with no message on the answering machine and no note on the kitchen table. They’d been home less than an hour when the phone rang.

They’d huddled by the phone together, holding hands, crying with happiness when they heard of the birth. It had taken a moment for the other words to register. Even now, Angie only remembered bits and pieces of the conversation.

I’m sorry—

changed her mind

back with her boyfriend

keeping the baby

They’d shut the door to this room and kept it closed. Once a week, their cleaning woman ventured inside, but Angie and Conlan never did. For well over a year, this room had stood empty, a shrine to their dream of someday. They’d given up on all of it—the doctors, the treatments, the injections, and the procedures. Then, miraculously, Angie had conceived again. By the time she was five months pregnant, they’d dared once more to enter this room and fill it with their dreams. They should have known better.

She went to the closet and pulled out a big cardboard box. One by one, she began to put things into it, trying not to attach memories to every piece she touched.


She hadn’t even heard the door open, and yet here he was, in the room with her.

She knew how crazy it must seem to him, to find his wife sitting in the middle of the room, with a big cardboard box beside her. Inside it were all of her precious knickknacks—the Winnie-the-Pooh bedside lamp, the Aladdin picture frame, the crisp new collection of Dr. Seuss books. The only piece of furniture left was the crib. The bedding was on the floor beside it, a neat little stack of pale pink flannel.

She turned to look up at him. There were tears in her eyes, blurring her vision, but she hadn’t noticed until now. She wanted to tell him how sorry she was; it had all gone wrong between them. She picked up a small pink stack of sheets, stroking the fabric. “It made me crazy” was all she could say.

He sat down beside her.

She waited for him to speak, but he just sat there, watching her. She understood. The past had taught him caution. He was like an animal that had adapted to its dangerous environment by being still and quiet. Between the fertility drugs and the broken dreams, Angie’s emotions were unpredictable. “I forgot about us,” she said.

“There is no us, Angie.” The gentle way he said it broke her heart.

Finally. One of them had dared to say it. “I know.”

“I wanted a baby, too.”

She swallowed hard, trying to keep her tears under control. She’d forgotten that in the last few years; Conlan had dreamed of fatherhood just as she wanted motherhood. Somewhere along the way, it had all become about her. She’d focused so much on her own grief that his had become incidental. It was one of those realizations that would haunt her, she knew. She had always been dedicated to success in her life—her family called her obsessive—and becoming a mother had been one more goal to attain. She should have remembered that it was a team sport.

“I’m sorry,” she said again.

He took her in his arms and kissed her. It was the kind of kiss they hadn’t shared in years.

They sat that way, entwined, for a long time.

She wished his love could have been enough for her. It should have been. But her need for a child had been like a high tide, an overwhelming force that had drowned them. Maybe a year ago she could have kicked to the surface. Not now. “I loved you. . . .”

“I know.”

“We should have been more careful.”

Later that night, when she was alone in the bed they’d bought together, she tried to remember the hows and whys of it, the things they’d said to each other at the end of their love, but none of it came back to her. All she could really remember was the smell of baby powder and the sound of his voice when he said good-bye.

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1. Kristin Hannah begins her novel with a quote from writer/ philosopher Henry David Thoreau: “Things do not change; we change.” Do you think the events of the novel are responsible for Angie’s personal growth? 

2. The Things We Do for Love focuses on two women, both in relationships burdened by an overwhelming problem.Why does Conlan and Angie’s relationship weather the storm whereas Lauren and David’s relationship does not? 

3. Lauren wonders about her mother’s emotional neglect, “So why did it still hurt, after all these years? You’d think a heart would grow calluses at some point.” Why didn’t Lauren’s heart grow calluses? What was the source of hope before meeting Angie? How was she able to envision a better life for herself? 

4. Descriptions of the town of West End proliferate in the novel. It is a place characterized by dramatic fluctuations in weather and even in population between the tourist season and the quiet winters. It is a small town, but it holds radically different associations for each character. How is Angie’s West End different from Lauren’s West End or David’s West End? In what ways is the town itself a character in the book? 

5. Lauren’s childhood was marked by a dearth of two important things: love and money. Does Lauren, consciously or not, think that these two things go together? Is she attracted to David’s family money, or does she love him in spite of it? 

6. DoesAngie believe that her mother can communicate with her late father? 

7. “Lauren wanted to push the hair out of her mother’s eyes but she didn’t dare. It was the kind of intimacy that could ruin everything.” Why is Lauren afraid of establishing intimacy with her mother? What does she fear would result from these impulses? 

8. It is much easier for Lauren to tell her mother that she’s pregnant than it is for her to tell Angie. Why? 

9. Were you surprised by Lauren’s decision to have the baby? What aspects of Lauren’s personality may have served as clues toward predicting what decision she would eventually make? 

10. Lauren’s relationship with Angie gives her a new, powerful confidence that she has never felt before. How does this confidence change the way Lauren interacts with her world? Does it bring her closer to the other people in her life, or does it alienate her? 

11. David’s mother tells Lauren that “motherhood changes who you are.” How do you think that having a child changes a woman? Angie is the only woman in the novel who is not technically a mother. How is she different from the ‘mothers’ that surround her? 

12. There are a handful of times in the book where Angie prays. Does Angie strike you as a religious woman? How does she relate to her family’s Catholicism? For what (or whom) does she pray? 

13. Conlan and Angie’s first few encounters on their road to reconciliation take place in their bedrooms. Why do you think it is  easier for them, after having been married for so long, to show their love for each other physically before having a discussion? 

14. Obviously, food plays a large role in the DeSaria family’s traditions and daily life. They attribute to a good meal the power to heal and to conjure feelings of joy and togetherness. But food has negative connotations in the novel as well: lack, loneliness, and inadequacy. How are Lauren and Angie’s relationships with food similar? 

15. When Conlan shows up at the cottage on Christmas Eve, he says that he came to meet Lauren. Why is meeting Lauren such a priority for him? What do you think his expectations of Lauren were? How does his impression of her after they meet change his mind about Angie’s decision to take Lauren in? 

16. Lauren remarks about her unplanned pregnancy: “A smart girl would have done things differently.” Do you agree with that statement? 

17. When Lauren asks Angie to raise her unborn baby, Angie is immediately certain that it would be “doing the wrong thing.” What is Angie really worried about, and why? How do the concepts of right and wrong play into this life-altering decision? 

18. Conlan tells Lauren that she did a grown-up thing, which is not the same as being a grown-up. Do you think that Lauren matures throughout the course of the novel? 

19. Lauren tells David that if she hadn’t gotten pregnant they might have stayed together forever. How did the baby create weakness in their relationship, or did it just illuminate a weakness that already existed? 

20. When Lauren left the hospital with her baby in tow, she followed her heart and struck out on her own with no safety net in sight; but she also broke a promise that she’d made to someone she loved, and didn’t stick around to defend her choice. Do you think that what Lauren did was brave or cowardly? 

21. What do you think the future holds for Angie? Do you think that she’s truly ready to help raise a baby, under her own roof, that will never be her own? What strategies do you think she should employ to make it work? 

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Reading Group Guide

1. On Mystic Lake opens with two scenes of leaving—Natalie fleeing California for England, and Blake quitting his marriage. How do these two acts set the tone for the rest of the book? Why is it significant that Annie has little choice, in these decisions?

2. At the beginning of the novel, how is Annie, in effect, trapped by her own image? How has she fashioned that persona? Is it the creation of her husband, Blake?

3. Why do you think Kristin Hannah tells the story through several narrative points of view, including those of Annie, Blake, Nick, and Izzy? How does this impact your understanding of the novel? Is there one character that you consider to be the true voice of On Mystic Lake?

4. After Blake asks for a divorce, Annie admits that she’s put her family’s needs above her own. What events in her past have spurred her to do so? How has she been rewarded for her selflessness, and how has it been damaging to her development?

5. Annie and Nick are both linked by loss in their families. How does learning to live alone—and discovering yourself in the process—constitute a theme of the book? In your opinion, who is the most successful at forging his or her own identity? Why?

6. Why didn’t Kathy and Annie keep in touch after high school? Do you think that Annie felt guilty for losing contact? Why or why not?

7. Why do you think Nick chooses to date and marry Kathy, in lieu of Annie? How does this decision affect the dynamic of the “gruesome threesome”? Ultimately, do you think Nick made the correct choice? Based on his memories of Kathy, do you think he truly loved his wife? Why or why not?

8. How does Annie react when she learns of Kathy’s suicide? What do you think drove Kathy to end her life? How has it affected Nick and, most notably, Izzy?

9. Why is taking care of Nick and Izzy so important to Annie? How does she make the child feel cherished and cared for? What is it about Annie that appeals to Izzy, and vice versa? How does Annie’s relationship with Natalie parallel the rapport she enjoys with Izzy?

10. The relationships between fathers and daughters are integral to the development of both parties in On Mystic Lake. Compare and contrast the relationships of Hank and Annie, Blake and Natalie, and Nick and Izzy. What does each daughter want from her father? As the story unfolds, do the fathers become more receptive to their daughters’ needs, and if so, how? In your opinion, who has the greatest chance to establish and maintain a successful father-daughter relationship?

11. What does the compass symbolize to Annie? Why does she stop wearing it around her neck, and begin to wear it again later? Why does she give it to Izzy?

12. “It doesn’t matter,” Annie says to Nick about her love for him. At that point, why doesn’t she believe that her passion for Nick can guide her life? How is she a pragmatist, and how is she a romantic? Ultimately, what compels her to change her mind and leave Blake?

13. Kathy didn’t want to “live in the darkness.” How do each of the characters in the book deal with grief, depression, and loneliness? What coping mechanisms do they use to cope and grow?

14. Why does Izzy stop talking? What compels her to speak again, and how is Annie instrumental in drawing Izzy out? How does Annie facilitate mending the breach between father and daughter?

15. “Our lives are mapped out long before we know enough to ask the right questions,” says Nick. What questions do you think Nick would like to ask? In what ways are Nick and Annie trapped by having to do what is expected of them? Ultimately, how do they exercise free will over their own lives? How do the other characters in the novel do the same?

16. Annie’s known in various ways—including Annie Bourne, Annalise Colwater, Mrs. Blake Colwater, mother, wife. How does each name or designation constitute a different identity? At the end of the book, has she embraced one or the other of these identities, or has she developed a new one? How does she incorporate each of these identities into a newly forged character?

17. What compels Blake to end his affair with Suzannah and call Annie? Why doesn’t she immediately return to him and to her marriage? How does he exhibit his love for her?

18. How does Annie’s relationship with her daughter change once Natalie goes to England? In which ways does Natalie look up to and admire Annie? With what aspects of her mother’s character does Natalie find fault? Do you think Natalie’s personality is at all similar to her father’s?

19. How does Annie’s pregnancy represent a turning point for her? Why does she return to Blake after she realizes she’s carrying his child? Why doesn’t she remain with Nick?

20. How do you think Annie would act and feel after signing her divorce papers? How is this character different than the one we meet at the beginning of the book? Why does Annie feel buoyant at the end of the story?

21. Do you believe that at the end of the story Annie will have a joyous reunion with Nick and Izzy? Will she open that bookstore in Mystic? Why or why not?

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 366 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 370 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    The Things We Do for Love

    Recently divorced Angela Malone leaves her glamorous and fast-paced life as an advertising executive in Seattle for the peace and calm of her childhood home. Her marriage ended because she and her husband, Conlan, had been unable to conceive a child, and the constant stress that this brought upon their marriage was more than either of them could handle.

    Angie returns home to the arms of her large Italian family in West End. Her new role --- to help rebuild DeSaria's, the family's restaurant, which was her deceased father's pride and joy. Angie finds herself hiding from the ghosts of her past within the warmth of her family.

    Kristin Hannah is an extraordinary novelist who has created a real and vivid portrait of motherhood and the choices that women face today. THE THINGS WE DO FOR LOVE explores the emotional journeys of women who have found themselves lost within their own lives. Hannah writes with spirit and sympathy to create a novel that is rich in detail with characters who are courageous and believable. THE THINGS WE DO FOR LOVE is an excellent story about the obstacles in life, the strength of love, and the beauty of hope.

    22 out of 25 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2007

    I recommend this book to everyone!

    The Things We Do for Love by Kristin Hannah, is one of my favorite books I have read in my whole life. Hannah has written this nobel with the intention to touch every body's heart. The characters, in this lovely nobel, are full of emotions and feelings that really got to the reader. Angela DeSaria Malone, the youngest of three daughters in the DeSaria family, divorces Conlan after fourteen years of romance, love, disappointment, and hard times after fourteen years of been married. After the death of her child, a failed adoption, and the divorce, Angie moves back to the town that had seem her growth. West End is a small town where everyone knows each other, and this makes Angie a little nervous about what people could say. Now everyone knows that the DeSaria's princes has returned home but with no baby and no husband. Helping her family revive the DeSaria's Restaurant, Angie, finds a way to not think in her problems. The restaurant is where she spends more of her time and where she meets Lauren Ribido.This lovely girl, Lauren, will help Angie find the love and hope she needs. Lauren and Angie become best friends sharing feelings, love, emotions, and all their problems. Lauren, finding herself in a pregnancy situation, decides to give in adoption her baby to Angie. Knowing that it was a risk Angie decides to take the responsibility of this baby. The relationship Angie and Lauren have makes Angie strong enough to get back with Conlan. Ending this nobel with emotion and love as through all the book.

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 5, 2010

    I Also Recommend:


    Angie experiences so much loss in her family and searches for peace. Heartwarming, heart-wrenching and emotional. This one will tug at your heart strings. Wonderful portrait of motherhood, courage and all facets of love.

    I also recommend EXPLOSION IN PARIS,ROSEFLOWER CREEK, and Smashcut

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A sea of tears

    Having adopted children myself this book is beyond tear-jerking --- it caused torrents to flow --- but all tears were ultimately tears of joy and love and relief. We all dream of finding someone that can be part of our lives in the most intimate of ways --- unconditional acceptance --- to see someone find this --- even in a novel --- releases a lifetime of seeking and hoping in the form of overwhelming emotions. Real life may never be as ultimately satisfying as this wonderful book may suggest is possible but from my own experience the longing of a person who has no real 'home' is something I have sometimes wondered about --- now through this book I have a glimpse at the the emotions and feelings that must flow unendingly through the body and mind of every dispossesed person. It makes me weep just to think that my adopted children must bear these thoughts and feelings at any level --- I know they can never be erased ---- the scar of abandonment is something they must live with and I can do nothing about it except to show them that I will be there --- I cannot allow the fear of a second abondonment grow stronger in their minds --- the first cannot be reversed but I can ensure it doesn't happen again. It is part of the job and joy of being a parent.
    Thank you Kristin Hannah for allowing me to understand a little better what those close to me are living with.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2004

    It doesn't get better than this

    Angela and Conlan Malone divorce after fourteen years of marriage because she never recovered from emotional setbacks caused by her infant¿s death and a failed adoption. The advertising guru flees Seattle for her hometown of West End, a few hours away. In town, her recently widowed mom and her sisters welcome her home, but the siblings still hold some resentment on the special treatment their dad provided to his Princess while they slaved in the family restaurant, DeSaria¿s........................................ Since the fourth grade, Lauren Ribaldo has worked to insure she would never duplicate the loser life of her mother. When she lost her job due to cutbacks, she searched for employment to pay the rent, but high school seniors have limited opportunities. Angela needs to help the teen, finally hiring her as a waitress while she struggles to save the family business. As she helps Lauren improve her life, Angela feels she receives more back as she has the child she always wanted, though she thought it would be playgrounds for a while not fancy dates. Déjà vu will soon test the relationship between these proud folks..................................... Readers will appreciate this deep relationship drama starring a solid female protagonist struggling with emotional setbacks and a fine support crew that brings Angela further alive for the audience. The story line is filled with emotional excitement whether it is the restaurant, the broken link with Conlan or the growing relationship between Angela and Lauren. Fans of a five tissue box character study will enjoy THE THINGS WE DO FOR LOVE and want a future tale starring an older Lauren.............................. Harriet Klausner

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2012


    Awesome book! You will not be able to put it down. Amazing writer...............on to book number 6 by her. Have not read a bad book by ber yet. You will not be disappointed!!!!!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 30, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:


    I went to the book store in all intentions to get Kristin Hannahs new book but then this one caught my eye and decided to read it. I loved every moment of it! Another book of hers I just couldnt put down!!

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Wonderful, multi-read story

    This is a wonderful story about life's choices, finding of self and family. It tells a tale of a woman's search for a child and a young teen's search for a mother.
    It tells of mistakes and ways of dealing with them. It shows what happens when "me" isn't as important as "us".
    I can's say enough GOOD about this story. It is fantastic.
    It is thought provoking and every mother and every daughter should read it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 18, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    What would you do for love?

    "THE THINGS WE DO FOR LOVE" is an amazing tale about two ladies, who's paths cross, and their lives change forever. Angie, newly seperated from her husband after things went to shred trying to concieve, heads back to her hometown to be with her family. She is numb, torn and upset about the whole ordeal, but that doesn't stop her Italin mother from making her work in the family resturant. Lauren, is a high school girl, who comes from a non existing and narrsastic mother, learns she is pregnant from her high school sweetheart. Instead of being him down, she sends him on his way to college. Lauren stays home, and somehow lands a job in Angie's restaurant. When Angie realizes Lauren is pregnant, she doesn't stop at all cost to help this girl out, even if that means adopting her child for her. Be sure to have a box of tissues ready, because once you get to the end, the tears will start to pour.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 26, 2010

    Great Story...Fast Read

    The story and characters are immediate. I like this because if I can't follow a story from the first chapter or two I put it down to never return!

    This story covers family, loss, love, hurt, choices, compromise, and self-reflecting. I found some of the contents to really hit home, and I physically got out of bed and went to my husband and told him how much I appreciate him and love him even though I don't always say or show it.
    I love a story that teaches me a lesson!

    If you like Kristin Hannah, you will love this book just like her others. I am finding a common theme amongst her books, however, and I am going to stop reading her for awhile so I can journey out.

    I was recommended to read this book by a co-worker, and I would recommend it to you. It's just a basic good life story.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2005

    It's Never Too Late to Find Happiness

    New York Times bestselling author Kristin Hannah has written a lovely novel about love of family, the importance of friends, and preciousness of motherhood no matter how it is attained. Angela, the baby and the princess in the DeSaria family is going through tough times in her life. After the death of a long awaited child. She and her husband Conlan decide to divorce. Now, Angela DeSaria Malone is heading home alone to her family which now consists of her two older sisters and her mother. Angela had hoped to sneak into town and settle in unnoticed, but she had forgotten what it is like to live in a small town. Everyone knows that little Angie has returned home--no baby, no husband, no job. Angie settles in the family summer cottage hoping to find herself, and her place in life. She never dreams that helping the family revive their failing restaurant and a flyer placed on her car windshield will help her find peace and happiness. Recommended for feel good reading. Vannie((~.~)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2005

    A Truly Disturbing Book

    Having read Kristen Hannah's books in the past, I expected great things. And for the first 90% of the book, that's what I got an insightful, touching and well thought out story brought to life by characters that really got to me. And then the book took a sharp left turn at the end. In a stunningly out of character move, one of the lead characters commits an act of ruthless betrayal so profoundly selfish and ill-conceived that it takes the breath away. What makes this so hard to take is that it is painted in saccharin sweet hues to make it palatable and acceptable, but to me, it was if two totally different writers wrote this book. The first 90% of the book is written by a writer who gets the complexities of emotional choices and the impacts they have on others. The second writer obviously thinks that an act that is good for not a single character in the book, done out of sense of selfish desperation is a positive outcome. It's only a book, and the author can do with her characters what she wants. But in the end I felt hurt and cheated by a character I had been pulling for for hundreds of pages. In short, this book broke my heart.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2004

    I love this book!

    Angela DeSaria Malone, the youngest of three daughters, just suffered through the worst year of her life. From her father's death and the death of her only child, infant daughter Sophia, to the end of her marriage. So Angie comes back home to West End, to the bustle and craziness of her family and the family's failing business. While trying to put her life back together and help restore the business, she meets a young teenager named Lauren. ....................... Lauren has never known a mother's love, nor the love of a family. But circumstances for her into the open arms of the DeSaria family. Angie and Lauren find happiness in their situations. Angie finally experiences motherhood and Lauren finally understands the feeling of being loved. But nothing can prepare the two for the trial that lies before them or for the unimaginable reward waiting for them on the other side. .................................. ***** ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL! I fell deeply in love with this book. Such a wonderful and poignant story that shows the true meaning of love and family. I have become a avid fan of Kristin Hannah after this one. *****

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2004


    Able voice performer Susan Ericksen delivers a fine performance as she articulates the hopes and dreams of two women, one a 38-year-old who appears to have lost everything, the other a young unwed mother-to-be. Angela DeSaria Malone knew early on what the years ahead would hold: love, marriage and children. This was not to be. She has undergone what for her is surely the ultimate heartbreak: she has suffered miscarriages, lost a child, been unable to adopt, and finally her marriage has crumbled. She returns to her hometown of West End hoping to find comfort among her family and familiar surroundings. Once there she loses herself in redoing the family restaurant, and she meets young Lauren Ribido. Lauren touches Angie's heart; the girl is pregnant, deserted by her lover and ignored by her mother. She's in desperate need of love and care. Of course, Angie provides both. An abortion is simply out of the question for Lauren. But, what can she offer a child? Would it make sense for Angie to adopt the child? Sometimes the most logical conclusions are not in the offing. Both women are swept up in life altering experiences. Another listen that requires Kleenex on the side. - Gail Cooke

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2014

    One of my Favs

    Loved this book. Read it in a day, could not put it down

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 8, 2014

    "Love" love love...

    I absolutely love all the novels I've read, thus far, by Kristin Hannah. Each one is full of realistic life lessons and experiences that the readers can relate to. I look forward to my quiet time with Kristin.


    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2014


    Tear jerker indeed

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2013


    Really good book

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 30, 2013

    If you like Kristen'll like this one!

    3.5 stars...really wish there was a way to shade in half a star. But putting that aside... "The Things We Do For Love" is one of Kristin Hannah's transition books. I'm not sure there are any more, but this book really felt like her first attempts to blend romance and women's fiction. And I liked it.

    The story was solidly written. At some spots there were descriptions of the weather and landscape that seemed a bit forced. It was an obvious attempt to move time along, but it wasn't very interesting and felt more like Hannah was trying to show us that she knew the West End area in Washington state. Anyone who has read much of Hannah's work, knows she comes from the area and knows it well.

    The characters were very likable. There were no 'villains' per se, but some characters were more likable than others. Angie, the main character, sometimes felt unrealistic. Her growth and change in the book was too quick in my opinion. I know women who have struggled with infertility, miscarriages, death of children, and adoptions gone south. It is a challenge, frustration, and even devastation that many of us cannot comprehend. In the beginning of the book, Angie is wrestling with those emotions and I think Hannah did a good job immersing us in Angie's grief. When she connects with Lauren, the abandoned teenage girl, it is easy to see how she becomes enmeshed in the girls life. As the story unfolds, Angie changes, but not convincingly. I found myself wanting the changes to be real, but just couldn't get there. I kept waiting for a more convincing moment to show me the growth.

    That being said, I was still engrossed in the book, had a hard time putting the book down, anxious to find out how the story ended. I liked the ending. I thought it appropriate for the relationships that had developed.

    If you like the blend of women's fiction and romance, this is a good book to read. There is a bit of language, but not much. Sex is referenced, but everything is behind closed doors or faded to black.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 17, 2013

    One of Kristin's best books!

    I "loved" this book! It's my second favorite book by Kristin Hannah, next to "Fly Away." All of the characters were interesting, and I was crying and laughing throughout the entire book. It was such a refreshing story; none like I have ever read! I couldn't put this book down. Although the ending was pretty predictable, in my opinion, I'm glad that it did end this way. If you're a Kristin Hannah fan, this is a must read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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