So Happy Together
by Maryanne McFadden
(Hyperion, $24.99) ISBN 978-1-4013-0148-4
****
At 45, Claire is about to embark on a new life: she is engaged to be married, she and Rick will be moving from New Jersey to Arizona. Just before these two major events occur, Claire will be spending the summer on Cape Cod taking a photography seminar, a hobby the history teacher has always dabbled in and now hopes to turn into a second career.

Claire is not entirely settled within herself as she plans to go away, though. She and daughter Amy have been estranged since Amy dropped out of school almost two years ago and Claire's father Joe has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, making it increasingly difficult for Claire's mother, Fanny, to care for him at home.

Just before Claire is to leave for Cape Cod, her still-angry daughter appears on the doorstep, pregnant, and Joe and Fanny begin to show signs of needing more care. Reluctantly, Claire drops out of the program to care for her daughter, granddaughter and parents.

Rick's displeasure at this turn of events is no surprise to Claire, nor is she surprised when he postpones the fall wedding. A vacancy in the fall session on Cape Cod provides Claire a second chance at the fabled Cape Cod light and also provides second chances for Amy, new baby Rose, Joe and Fanny, each harboring secrets (except for Rose) that are eating them up and affecting their relationships with those around them.

In Cape Cod, Claire once again experiences disappointment as she learns the workshop focuses on digital photography instead of black and white, her specialty, but she decides to give it a chance and is surprised at the things she learns about herself, her family and her surroundings by looking at things through a different type of lens.

Told mainly from Claire's point of view, but also from Joe's, Fanny's and Amy's, many secrets begin to emerge, secrets that have held the keepers, and those around them, back many times with anger, fear and frustration.

Cape Cod is able to work its magic on each member of Claire's family, including Claire, as they learn to let go, heal and fall in love again. For Claire, who often puts others and their needs ahead of hers, it may take a bit longer, but when she least expects it, her life takes on a new focus. Claire's transition from black and white photography to digital and her ability to synthesize the two techniques becomes a metaphor for the life she thinks she wants to live and the life she is meant to live.

History and marine life intertwine with Claire's story, adding depth and providing a project on which she can focus, providing a surprise that will take her life in new, unimagined directions.

--Jennifer Monahan Winberry


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