Review: The Family Journal by Carolyn Brown

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At the end of her rope, single mom Lily Anderson is determined to move her rebellious children in the right direction. That means taking away their cell phones, tablets, and computers—at least temporarily—and moving to the house where Lily grew up in the rural town of Comfort, Texas. But Lily has a bigger challenge than two sulking kids. 

The house comes with Mack Cooper, high school teacher and handsome longtime renter. The arrangement: just housemates. But Mack’s devoted attention to the kids starts to warm Lily’s resistant heart. Then Lily finds an old leather-bound book in which five generations of her female ancestors shared their struggles and dreams. To Lily, it’s a bracing reminder about the importance of family…and love. 

Now it’s time for Lily to add an adventurous new chapter to the cherished family journal—by embracing a fresh start and taking a chance on a man who could make her house a home.

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Source: NetGalley and Montlake Romance          Rating: 4½/5 stars

Lily Anderson’s life has all but fallen apart.  Her children are headed down a dangerously bad path, her cheating ex-husband has little to do with his own children, and Lily is desperately unhappy in her current situation.  With the welfare and happiness of her children at stake, Lily does the only thing she can think to do, pack her bags and move she and her kids to her family home in the small town of Comfort, Texas.

Comfort isn’t quite what her rebellious children expected, but it is exactly what they each need.  Since the passing of her parents, Lily has rarely visited her family home, but its been kept in a good state by a tenant, Mack Cooper.  With arrangements in place with Mack, Lily and her kids take over the upstairs, and Mack will continue on occupying the downstairs.  From the start, the arrangement is comfortable and everyone and the children, to Lily’s amazement seem to settle in quite nicely. 

Within days of moving in, Lily’s children start school, begin to make friends, and even begin to see the error of their previous ways.  In fact, Lily’s daughter is diving into her schoolwork and her community with gusto while her son has taken to farm life like a duck to water.  Though Lily had intended to continue her work as a counselor, she finds life has other ideas for her.  Her best friend has a lovely and bustling antique shop and is in desperate need of help.  Though Lily really has no experience, she does have an enthusiasm to learn and desire to spend more time with her kids.  The new job would allow her to be more present and involved with her children and that’s exactly what they all seem to need.

In the wake of getting settled and adjusting to a whole new life, Lily finds a way to really connect with both her past and her present. By way of a century old family journal, Lily learns about her predecessors as she connects in a more real way with her daughter who is using the journal for a school project.  In so many ways, the past informs the present and helps both mother and daughter to see beyond their differences and towards a future they both want and long for.  What finally solidifies the family and makes them all aware of Mack’s care and concern for them all is an awful experience with the children and Lily’s ex-husband.  The fear and anger they all experience crystallizes their feelings for one another and propels them along what it seemingly an inevitable path. 

The Bottom Line:  Carolyn Brown is always, always, always going to be my go-to girl for sweet family reads.  Brown understands not only the dynamics of a family, both good and bad, but how to synthesize the good and the bad to create a harmonious and generally wonderful read.  The small-town setting with all its quirks, oddities, and welcoming nature always enhance the read and enrich the overall experience.  Thankfully, I discovered Carolyn Brown rather late, so I have plenty of her books to catch up and entertain me just as The Family Journal most certainly did.

Amazon| B&N | Paperback| Audible


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