Synopsis – from Goodreads:
When Ivy Rose returns to her hometown to oversee an estate sale, she soon discovers that her grandmother left behind more than trinkets and photo frames–she provided a path to the truth behind Ivy’s adoption. Shocked, Ivy seeks clues to her past, but a key piece to the mystery is missing.
Twenty-four years earlier, Harvey James finds an abandoned newborn who gives him a sense of human connection for the first time in his life. His desire to care for the baby runs up against the stark fact that he is homeless. When he becomes entwined with two people seeking to help him find his way, Harvey knows he must keep the baby a secret or risk losing the only person he’s ever loved.
In this dual-time story from debut novelist Amanda Cox, the truth–both the search for it and the desire to keep it from others–takes center stage as Ivy and Harvey grapple with love, loss, and letting go.
I was thrilled to have the chance to be on the blogger team for The Edge of Belonging because it touches on two subjects of importance to me. One, Ivy Rose is adopted. I was adopted as an infant, and I grew up knowing that to be the case. It was never a surprise to me, and I never doubted the love my parents had for me. I didn’t grapple with some of the same things Ivy struggles with. But I have that kinship with everyone who grew up in a family other than the one they were born to. Two, the story deals with an abusive relationship. Back in my days as an assistant district attorney, I saw my fair share of abused women. My heart ached for every one of them, and I saw how difficult it was for them to break free from the situations in which they often felt trapped. I’m no longer a trial attorney, but that is one of the very few things I would consider getting back into prosecution for, helping women and children who cannot, in those cases, help themselves.
The story is told from two perspectives in time. We see one aspect of the story unfolding from Ivy Rose Lashley’s point of view in the present day, and another through the lives of those who will become near and dear to her, back in 1994.
The Edge of Belonging grabbed me from the get-go. Ivy Rose learns that her grandmother is very close to dying. She wants to go to her family, but her fiancé bullies her into staying, into attending a function that’s very important for her career. This fiance is a control freak of the highest order. He tells Ivy what to wear, how she’ll act. It took me just about half a second to figure out that he was No Good For Her, and it broke my heart for Ivy. I wanted to hug her and tell her she deserved better, and I wanted to punch rotten ol’ Seth into the next county.
Finally Ivy decides that family means more, and she leaves the important function to try to get to her grandmother before she passes away. When she returns home, the fiance makes his displeasure with what he considers Ivy’s selfish actions abundantly clear. He threatens to ruin Ivy’s life, to take away the things he provides for her, the job he got for her. Her cell phone is turned off. Her car is damaged so that it won’t start. The funding for her job dries up suddenly. With nothing left to hold her there, Ivy returns to Triune, Tennessee, where she grew up. There she faces the task of going through her grandmother’s house and sorting through the things she left behind. And as it turns out, sorting through those things may include learning the truth behind her adoption – and figuring out how she feels about Reese, her childhood friend.
Oh, y’all. This book. I’m not one to cry at books, generally, but The Edge of Belonging had me running for the Kleenex. For so many of the characters, it’s about their perspective on relationships, and how they’ve handled the pain of loss, the pain of life going not according to plan.
I used to handle Child Protective Services cases as an assistant district attorney, and Harvey reminded me of some of the kids we’d see in foster care. He’d built such a thick shell around himself to protect himself, to make sure he didn’t get close to anyone, because as a child, he’d learned that love meant pain. He’d learned that if you love someone, they’ll just leave you, and he wasn’t willing to open himself up to that hurt again.
Miriam’s pain was caused by her inability to have a child. For so long, she couldn’t get past wanting a child from a pregnancy of her own. She let that pain distance her from her husband, her community of faith, and even God.
Pearl’s husband died from cancer, and her son came back from the war so emotionally damaged that he ended his own life. She lost those she loved to circumstances she couldn’t control.
And Ivy and Reese. They both danced around things so much, I was about ready to reach into the pages and give them each a little shake. But Ivy learned from her fiancé that love meant pain, and she also feared losing her best friend. Reese saw that she’d been hurt, and he knew he never wanted to make her feel that hurt from anything he said or did.
This is a marvelous story of finding your place, of learning that family doesn’t necessarily mean blood ties, of working past old hurts to find soul-deep healing. Faith is an important aspect of the story – Thomas is a pastor, after all. But it isn’t a “beat you over the head with a Bible” story. Rather, it’s a faith that gently seeks to draw others near, and a faith that allows the characters wrestle with and work out tough decisions in prayer, and grow stronger as a result.
The Edge of Belonging is a story that will break your heart and put it back together. You will wax indignant, laugh, cry, and cheer. When I turned the final page, I felt like I was saying goodbye to friends. It gets five enthusiastic stars and a wholehearted recommendation from me.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of the book from Revell Reads. All opinions here are my own, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.