Martin debuts with an uplifting story of realistic struggle, a desperate drive for connection, and ultimately Christian redemption. Lizzie Schmidt was adopted as a newborn into a family with another adopted sister, Jeannie, an oversensitive mother, and an alcoholic father struggling to get by. Fast forward decades later, to Lizzie’s life with her third husband, Joe, and Lizzie—a success in many ways, with financial security and graduate degrees in mathematics—embarking on a winding journey towards finding her birth parents and a straighter life path. Lizzie falls in and out of love easily and will face a shocking temptation as she digs deeper into her past. It’ll take Christian counseling and a true rebirth into her faith to set her life on the straight and narrow.
Lizzie’s personal life puts readers onto a roller coaster of emotion. By the time this story starts, she’s had three husbands and five kids and has found that a frightening “emptiness and sense of loss pervaded soul,” specifically after the death of her adopted mother. Tangled Violets Lizzie’s lifelong attempts to find intimacy in too many places eventually lead her into a deeply “inappropriate coupling”—but also, at long last, into healing when she rediscovers for herself the faith that she has always hoped would give her own kids “a wholesomeness and legitimacy that I’d always felt was beyond my reach.”
Martin’s strength in this story comes from a refusal to shy away from life’s difficulties as Lizzie faces tough choices and desires. Living as a Christian, and further a Catholic, isn’t easy, and people do stray. Martin’s development of Lizzie lays a strong foundation to make both her good and the bad choices convincing, encouraging readers to sympathize with a character who embodies human struggle and sin, offering hope of healing and forgiveness. Readers eager for stories about connection and faith will find this engaging.
Takeaway: The heartening story of a woman who’s sought intimacy in the wrong places finding her faith.
Great for fans of: Josie Riviera, Francine Rivers.
Production grades Cover: B Design and typography: A Illustrations: N/A Editing: A- Marketing copy: A
In this novel, an adopted woman finally finds her birth mother and father, a remarkable discovery that delivers both joy and confusion.
Elizabeth Schmidt had a pleasant upbringing, but as an adopted child, she felt the pangs of a haunting incompleteness. The difference between her and her adoptive family “lay silent and undisturbed between us like a sleeping dog with an uncertain pedigree.” Despite Elizabeth’s great academic and professional success, her personal life is not fully satisfying despite three marriages and five children. Then her adoptive mother, Marie, lets it slip that she received a communication from Alice Maher, Elizabeth’s birth mother’s sister, possibly about an inheritance of some kind, but proceeded to destroy the letter. Elizabeth decides to find Alice—she even hires a private detective—and learns that her mother, Liddy, is actually alive, despite Marie’s declarations to the contrary. Martin, with great subtly and sensitivity, chronicles Elizabeth’s poignant search for her true self and her yearning to fill the “proverbial black hole” of her unknown ancestry. But Elizabeth’s initial euphoria after locating Liddy discovers a darker counterpoint when she also finds her father, Ned, and falls romantically in love with him. Elizabeth soon realizes that Liddy, despite being married to a man named Andy, harbors her own romantic designs on Ned. Martin’s tale is a complex, entangled one filled with unpredictable twists and turns. The story forthrightly discusses the astonishingly illicit affair between Elizabeth and Ned, a provocative subplot handled without a hint of prurient sensationalism. The author deftly shows the emotionally bifurcated world that Elizabeth now inhabits: “But at that moment, I realized I was more like Marie than Liddy. Applying a suitcase full of makeup to perfect my facial features or wearing sexy clothes to draw attention to myself was simply not who I was. Any attempt to reconfigure me as such was destined to fail. Although the beautiful world of Liddy attracted me, I lived in the unadorned and practical world of Marie.” This is a moving novel, crackling with sexual volatility and emotional intelligence.
An engrossing emotional drama, both shocking and thoughtful.