In order to give a proper review, I feel like I need to turn my usual format on its head.
Structure/Plot: The book is divided into six sections, starting with some introductory content written by Sandy Powers.
We meet Sandy as she's grappling with her mother's death. In sorting her mom's belongings, Sandy uncovers documents and journals that inform her that Grace was adopted. They also detail her mother's life during World War II and the Cold War, where she worked undercover for the FBI. All of this is news to Sandy and is told using what I can only describe as a collection of memorabilia -- news clippings, journal entries, official documents, etc.
At only 128 pages, it was a breeze to read. And with the structure of the book, many pages aren't full, containing only contain a short news clipping or a few journal entries.
Characters: The majority of the book is told from Grace's point of view through her journal entries and other memorabilia she had collected and Sandy is now reading for the first time.
In theory, this is a great backbone for an interesting novel. A daughter uncovering a mother's hidden past. However, Grace's journal entries are short and sporadic. Weeks, months, and even years pass between some entries. This leaves the reader (and Sandy, I'm sure) with a very basic picture of Grace, but never much depth. You're left with more questions than answers. In my opinion, this is where the book falls short.
That being said, the lack of information offered in the book does make me empathize with Sandy, a character in her own right. I can't imagine how she must have felt reading this basic summary of her mother's history without the luxury of being able to ask her mother for the full story.
What could have made the novel richer would have been more of Sandy's feelings and thoughts as she uncovered her mother's secret life. Though she was young, she was alive when her mother was a spy. Does she remember anything about it? What about the feelings and thoughts of her father and siblings?
The last line of the book reads, in part: "My mother. How little I knew her. I buried my face in my hands and cried."
To me, that emotion is where the real story begins. Yet, it's not even explored.
While I felt this was a good skeleton for a great book, the reality left too many gaps to make it compelling. 2 stars.
I received a free copy of this book to review, but my thoughts and my review are my own.