Review: The Book of Second Chances by Katherine Slee

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Emily can’t remember the last time she left the house. Or spoke to anyone besides her grandmother, beloved children’s author Catriona Robinson. After Catriona’s death, Emily is at a complete loss . . . until she gets an unexpected letter from the woman she loved most.

Catriona has revealed there might be one last, lost unpublished manuscript in her wildly popular book series. And she’s left a secret diary and trail of clues that only Emily can follow. From London to Paris to Verona, Emily traces her grandmother’s past, finding out more about her family — and herself — than she ever imagined possible.

Review. Text on the string. Conceptual 3d image

Source: NetGalley and Forever          Rating: 3/5 stars

Emily’s life has been turned upside down and right side out to an extreme extent twice in her young life.  The first time her life went sideways, so did the car she was riding in and it took both her parents’ lives and years for Emily to physically recover.  The second time, Emily’s life went sideways, her beloved grandmother died after a long struggle with cancer.  Alone, afraid, and rather helpless (or so she imagines), Emily has no idea what she’ll do for the next decades of her life, but she is certain it doesn’t involve leaving her house.

In the years since her accident, Emily’s grandmother has loved and cared for her, all while becoming one of the world’s most beloved children’s book authors.  Emily’s grandmother was responsible for the words, but Emily has always been the illustrator.  With half the dynamic duo now gone, Emily isn’t at all sure what she’ll do for money. 

Good thing for Emily, her grandmother was clever, caring, compassionate, and generous.  In secret during the months leading up to her death, Emily’s grandmother put into motion a plan that will not only break Emily out of her comfort zone but help her heal from both her past and present hurts.  The plan involves a scavenger hunt which will take Emily on a long and cathartic road towards her future.  With the help of a very old and trusted friend, Emily reluctantly sets out to discover what it is, exactly that her grandmother wanted her to learn.

Emily’s hunt is filled with hurt, anger, sadness, and even fond memories, all of which lead Emily from one step to the next.  At each stop, Emily encounters a person close to her grandmother who has a package waiting for Emily.  The packages are the clues as well as diary pages from her grandmother’s past.  As any elder will tell you, the key to understanding the actions, thoughts, and feelings of the present is often rooted in the actions, thoughts, and feelings of the past.  Each diary entry gives Emily an incredible insight into her grandmother’s world and life before Emily came to live with her.  Emily discovers in the pages a free-spirited woman who loved fiercely, travelled widely, and gave it all up to raise her daughter and granddaughter, alone. 

The Bottom Line: I found this book to be somewhat overwhelming in its sadness and – if I’m honest – despair.  Emily has been allowed to live a secluded and isolate life for so many years, that once her grandmother dies, she has no idea how to fend for herself.  Additionally, in order to receive her full inheritance, Emily must complete an emotionally challenging – to say the least – scavenger hunt that comes very close to breaking her, permanently.  While I completely understand the purpose of Emily’s quest and her grandmother’s intentions, it didn’t make this book any easier to read.  This is an emotionally challenging book that I can’t say I loved, but I did like.  Of particular interest was the past (diary pages) blazing into the present to help Emily endure and better understand her grandmother and the monumental tasks ahead of her.  I won’t go so far as to say, “Move this to the top of your TBR immediately!” but I will say give it a try, especially if you are a fan of big emotion books.

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