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Although 17 years have passed since Eustacia "Taisy" Cleary's father cruelly expelled her, her twin brother, and their mother from his life, the betrayal still stings. Not that Wilson Cleary would have won any Dad of the Year awards. The arrogant genetics professor really only cared about one person—himself. After almost two decades, not much has changed. Although Wilson has—uncharacteristically—lavished affection on Willow, the prized only child of his second marriage, he still cares little for his disappointing "first family." Now 35, Taisy knows she should be over her daddy issues. And yet, she's not. Not by a long shot.
So, when 71-year-old Wilson summons Taisy to his bedside after a major health scare, she can't help herself. She goes. Hoping for reconciliation or at least an apology, she's disappointed to find that Wilson isn't interested in resolving differences. Instead, he wants to hire Taisy—a burgeoning ghost writer—to draft a book about his illustrious professional career. To get the project off the ground as quickly as possible, Wilson will pay her expenses, even allowing her to bunk in his pool house. Taisy knows she should refuse, but she can't. There are things she needs to know about Wilson's past, things she's determined to find out—even if he has no intention of telling her.
Living with her estranged father is awkward enough, but Taisy also has to deal with Caro, her spacey stepmother, and Willow, the much fawned over golden child. Then there's Ben Ransom. Taisy's childhood sweetheart has never forgiven her for breaking his heart. She's never loved anyone more than she loved kind, gentle Ben—now that they're living in the same town, she longs for a second chance with him. As Taisy's life intersects with those of Caro, Willow, and Ben, she makes some startling discovers about each of them. It's only while uncovering her father's secrets, though, that she finds the truths she needs to move forward, revelations that have less to do with Wilson and much, much more to do with herself.
As far as family sagas go, The Precious One by Marisa de los Santos, is on the quieter side. And yet, the novel is no less compelling than its more dramatic counterparts. Because of the story's slower pacing, the reader gets to know Taisy and the other characters intimately, which makes each of their sorrows more heartbreaking, their setbacks more painful, their triumphs more sweet. While each member of the book's cast has their flaws, most are sympathetic, making it easy to root for their success. Although I wanted a cleaner ending to this family's strained tale, I think The Precious One comes to a realistically messy conclusion. It manages to be both uplifting and true-to-life. For all these reasons, I enjoyed this slow-building, but engrossing tale about family, forgiveness, and finding oneself in the most surprising of places.
(Readalikes: The Precious One reminds me of other novels about returning home and coming to terms with difficult family situations, although no specific titles are coming to mind. Help?)
If this were a movie, it would be rated:
for language (1 F-bomb, plus milder expletives), violence, and sexual innuendo/references