(Image from Barnes & Noble)
Hope Stevens doesn't have a lot of reason to stick around Chicago. Her marriage is done, her part-time job at a graphic design firm is going nowhere, and she's feeling bruised all over. It's a perfect opportunity for the 31-year-old painter to get away, to recharge somewhere far from the stress of her everyday life. In little Wedding Tree, Louisiana, Hope's beloved grandmother needs help after being hospitalized from a bad fall. The 91-year-old can't be left alone. Hope volunteers not just to stay by her side, but also to help the elderly woman clean out her cluttered home so she can move in with her son in California.
Adelaide McCauley welcomes her granddaughter's help and company. Especially since Adelaide's mother has made it clear (from beyond the grave, no less) that Adelaide will not be "crossing over" until she's spilled the shocking secret she's been guarding for most of her life. The old woman can't just blurt it out, so she begins at the beginning, telling Hope all about her World War II romance with a man who wasn't her husband. Adelaide dreads the story's end, terrified that the heartbreaking truth will change the warm friendship that's blossoming between herself and Hope.
The relationship with her grandmother isn't the only one that's blooming for Hope. She's become enmeshed in the lives of her neighbors, a handsome attorney and his two young daughters. Although Hope is sure Matt sees her the way everyone else seems to—as a ditzy, impulsive screw-up—she's falling in love with him in spite of her best intentions not to. Does Hope dare to pursue a romance that has no chance of lasting? Can she learn her grandmother's secrets before it's too late? Will the floundering Hope find herself in Wedding Tree or will she leave town as heartbroken as when she came?
When I read the plot summary for The Wedding Tree by Robin Wells, I thought, "Ooooh, sounds like a contemporary Southern version of a Kate Morton novel." As you can probably imagine, that idea had me practically salivating. I adore multi-generational family sagas, especially those set in the South, so I expected to love this one. Why didn't I? It just lacked a little something for me. Weird considering The Wedding Tree is, overall, a happy, upbeat novel about forgiveness and renewal. Hope and Adelaide are both interesting women, sympathetic but spunky. Their voices give the story a funny, engaging tone that makes it enjoyable, despite sometimes difficult subject matter. What is missing from the novel, then? Well, subtlety. And conflict. And suspense. More of all three would have made the story richer, more substantial. The tale gets too predictable, wrapping up in a way I found anti-climactic. As a whole, I enjoyed this light read, just not as much as I wanted to.
(Readalikes: Reminds me of a Kate Morton novel [because of its premise, not its prose] or one of Karen White's Southern family sagas)
If this were a movie, it would be rated:
for language (no F-bombs) and some surprisingly graphic sexual content