(Image from Barnes & Noble)
Seventeen years ago, two drunk teenage girls were in a car accident. One died, one survived. Plagued with guilt for killing her best friend, Lisa Smyth spent the next few years drowning her sorrows in copious amounts of wine and booze. Grief-stricken by the death of her older sister, Jennifer, good girl Rae McDonald made a string of poor decisions, which ended with her pregnant at 16. After placing her baby for adoption, Rae sealed off her emotions, vowing never to let her life spin out of control again. Now 32, she's a family therapist widely known to have a heart of stone. Rae thinks she has put the past firmly behind her, but when Lisa returns to Alexandria, her arrival stirs up all kinds of buried emotions. An out-of-the-blue e-mail from her biological son creates its own whirlwind, turning Rae's rigidly ordered life completely upside down.
As if Rae didn't have enough to worry about already, an enthusiastic salvage artist and local history buff has unearthed artifacts relating to the McDonalds' long history in Alexandria. The woman's research brings up even more secrets from the past, making Rae wonder if her family has been cursed from the moment they stepped foot on American soil. Lisa's kin have been likewise unlucky. As the vagabond wet-plate photographer struggles to find her place in Alexandria while caring for her ailing aunt, she'll discover startling truths about herself as well. Like how fragile is her control over her alcoholism, despite the many sobriety chips hanging from her keychain ...
Can the two women come together despite the still-raw pain that looms between them? Can they break the curses of the past to create a healthier, happier future? Or are they doomed to live lives as solitary and painful as those of their ancestors?
The View From Prince Street by Mary Ellen Taylor is a warm-hearted novel about fighting fate by taking control of your past, present and future. A tribute to friendship and forgiveness, it's also about finding and facing hard truths. Despite its heavy themes, the story feels not oppressive, but balanced. True, I would have liked the setting to come alive a little more. I would have also enjoyed better development of the male characters in the book. Tighter plotting (the novel often seemed overly long) would have been good as well. Overall, though, The View From Prince Street is a pleasant, uplifting read that both intrigued and entertained me.
(Readalikes: This book often refers to characters from Taylor's other novels set in Alexandria. Although I haven't read any of them, I would assume The View from Prince Street is similar to The Union Street Bakery; At the Corner of King Street; and Sweet Expectations)
If this were a movie, it would be rated:
for language (no F-bombs)