Marian cut herself off from her wealthy, conservative Irish Catholic family when she volunteered during the Spanish Civil War - an experience she has always kept to herself. Now in her 90s, she shares her Rhode Island cottage with her granddaughter Amelia, a young woman of good heart but only a vague notion of life's purpose. Their daily existence is intertwined with Marian's secret past: the blow to her youthful idealism when she witnessed the brutalities on both sides of Franco's war and the romance that left her trapped in Spain in perilous circumstances for nearly a decade. When Marian is diagnosed with cancer, she finally speaks about what happened to her during those years - personal and ethical challenges nearly unthinkable to Amelia's millennial generation as well as the unexpected gifts of true love and true friendship.
Marian's story compels Amelia to make her own journey to Spain, to reconcile her grandmother's past with her own uncertain future. With their exquisite female bond at its core, this novel, which explores how character is forged in a particular moment in history and passed down through the generations, is especially relevant in our own time. It is a call to arms - a call to speak honestly about evil when it is before us and to speak equally about goodness.
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- Rebecca del Rio
As an amateur Spanish Civil War scholar, I was anxious to read and listen to this book. The New York Times review was positive, giving me more incentive. However, the book was enormously disappointing. It was stuffed with paragraph after paragraph of pointless set descriptions that slowed down the narrative causing me to skip whole sections without missing any plot points.
The principal characters, Marian and Amelia were both superficial and the book focused heavily on both their self-doubting inner monologues. This quickly became tedious and frustrating as neither commanded the readers respect and interest.
Many of the secondary characters, most specifically members of Marian's family and her Spanish mother-in-law were completely one-dimensional stand-ins for the evils of the Catholic Church.
What might have been an exciting story of a young woman's coming of age in a critical time in European history was a dull, flat telling of events from the point of view of a timid, reactive and insecure person filled with a uncertainty.
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