After learning of their father's sudden death, the Mayes siblings rush back to their childhood home to pay their respects. Seraphine, the first one back to the estate, begins going through the possessions of her father. She finds something that troubles her more than she could ever imagine — a photograph from 25 years ago, on the day of her birth. The photo is of her mother (Ruth), her father (Dominique), her brother (Edwin), and a newborn baby.
There are a couple of shocking things in this photo:
- Her mother died 25 years ago, on her actual birthday, which means that this photo is from right before she committed her alleged suicide.
- There is only one newborn baby in this picture, which is quite peculiar because Seraphine has a twin brother named Danny. Why is he not in the photo? Why does her mother seem unequivocally happy, when a mere couple of hours later, she supposedly throws herself off of a cliff? The whole family is in this picture — Why would they leave one twin newborn, who is only a couple of hours old, unattended?
When her brothers arrive, Seraphine shows them the picture. They are confused too, but the news fails to affect them as much as it disturbs her. In the days that follow, Seraphine throws herself into an investigative mode, trying to find anyone or anything that can help her get closer to the truth of what happened that day. Edwin and Danny are anxious to get back to their lives in the city, but Seraphine cannot get past the photo and the lack of answers to her questions.
Edwin, knowing that his sister will not stop until she has the answers she is looking for, makes a revelation that blows her investigation wide open. The year she was born, their parents hired an au pair named Laura to look after Edwin. She disappeared after the twins were born, and he hadn't heard from her since. Edwin is sure that she may have some information about why there is only one baby in the picture and maybe, even what happened to their mother.
After much convincing, Laura agrees to disclose the story of what happened that year. It turns out to be more than what Seraphine bargained for as Laura goes into great detail about her year at the Summerbourne estate. It was a summer of love, disappointment, family betrayal, and mistakes. With each piece of the puzzle that Laura unveils, Seraphine wishes she had never chanced upon this woman. Who has the evidence that her parents did not die in an accident — but were murdered instead? Is she ready to find out? The question plagues her mind because once she knows, there is no going back.
I give this book 3/5 stars. It starts with a lot of promise, and I like the pace of the narrative. We meet the Mayes siblings rather quickly as their father's death is what starts the story off. I grieved along with the young adults for their father and wanted to know what led to their mother's alleged suicide. I was with Seraphine when she scoured her small town for clues about her birth, and I was even with her when she found her brother's old au pair. But after that, the plotlines got too enigmatic to get behind.
I should mention that this story is written in the present tense and from Seraphine's perspective. However, every other chapter switches tense and backtracks to 25 years in the past — loosely narrated in a third-person's point of view, jumping between Laura and Seraphine. So, we get to see into the mind of these two pivotal characters throughout their respective chapters.
Disclaimer: The following part of the review contains spoilers.
The first plot hole that I think is widely outrageous is that no one found out about the three babies. Everyone knew that Ruth was pregnant, but it turns out that Laura was secretly pregnant with twins at the same time. They hid the fact that they were pregnant from friends and family. Honestly, I don't think it is possible for a woman carrying twins to conceal her pregnancy from the people she lives with.
The second plot hole that I came upon is the one after the births. Not only do all the babies happen to be born on the same day, which is suspicious enough, but Alex, the young lad who had an affair with Ruth, walks into the house and sees a baby girl unattended. He presumes the baby to be his own and that Ruth has lost her mind leaving such a young child by herself. It is weird how he just takes the baby and leaves. In actuality, the baby is one of the twins that Laura had. Dominique decides to trick Ruth into believing she had twins so that they can raise both Ruth and Laura's babies without anyone discovering the truth. Why is Dominque so interested in this baby? It is because he is the father — he had an affair with Laura.
The final plot point that I found hard to wrap my head around was the end. When all of this is revealed to Seraphine, she decides that she wants all of them to be a family. She invites them to her house for a family dinner — Danny, Edwin, Laura, Alex, and even the sister they never knew. Although it is a bit awkward at first, there is no animosity between any of them. Now, I am a sucker for a happy ending, but this seems a little too far out there. After all these years of secrets and misunderstandings, it is hard to believe that they could all get along as if nothing had happened.
In my opinion, the book was well written and interesting. It was one that I did not struggle to get through, and I always wanted to know what happened next. It was simply the uncanny plot that bumped the rating down for me.
Edited by Darshini Poola (the_untitled_journal)