I had never read one of Katrina Anne Willis’s books before – and what a treat I have been missing! This was easily one of the best books I have read this year. Realistic and often harsh, it details the story of three emotionally damaged sisters, Catherine, Anne and Jessica, offspring of Big Jim, their handsome cheating father, and Eva, broken, disillusioned and exhausted with nothing left to give her growing daughters.
We join the sisters in adulthood; Catherine, a university professor currently receiving chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer. Cynical and straight talking, Catherine stumbles suddenly upon love in the most unlikely of places and is overawed by its transformative power in her life. Anne, married mother of two, staid, reserved, struggling and overwhelmed by family responsibilities, financial ruin and a grief that consumes her. Finally, Jessica, estranged from her dysfunctional family after running away in her teens. After a chance encounter with her brother-in-law Dale, Jessica hovers on the periphery, unsure of herself, of her place in her family – and of life itself!
Although I was slow to start ‘Parting Gifts,’ that must have been lack of initial concentration on my part, because once engaged | just could not put this book down. The characters were so real, and yet despite their flaws, so likeable, so relatable. They drew me in to their stories and I was fascinated by how carefully Katrina Anne Willis observed her characters, how believable their responses were to the challenges life threw at them.
Alongside we had flashbacks to Eva and Big Jim’s life before the sisters; their marriage, their battles, their life-changing events, all of which provide clues as to why their offspring are so emotionally damaged. They could be any one of us however; grief, guilt, jealousy, anger are not once in a lifetime experiences, they are everyday occurrences – things that happen to someone every day, and I believe that is in the reality that lies the strength of ‘Parting Gifts.’
I give this book 5 full stars!