Modern Lit: Heartbroken, by Lisa Unger


My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lisa Unger explores the family rifts that can grow and fester as a result of truths never spoken. Kate Burke’s annual vacation on remote Heart Island, her family’s private Adirondack hideaway, becomes more burdensome than pleasurable. Her seventy five year old mother, Birdie, hasn’t softened with age, and Kate’s always agonized over why Birdie is so emotionally remote and critical. Kate knows she’s become a disappointment to Birdie, settling for a life as a stay at home mom. But this year, her novel, based upon family journals, is about to be published, and Kate hopes her mom will be impressed, but fears her reaction nonetheless. Birdie has her own secrets.

Emily is a young woman in an abusive relationship, and lives with her mother’s disapproval. The rash acts of her live-in boyfriend will soon bring her back to Heart Island, which she visited as a child and recalls as idyllic.

The lives of these three women are about to collide, to erupt in the sort of violence none of them could have imagined. Ms. Unger has developed into a masterful storyteller: Heart Island is outstanding. The novel begins ordinarily enough, but chapter by chapter, the commonplace begins to spin faster and faster, until none of the women can foresee or control the consequences. Multidimensional and suspenseful, what begins as a family saga morphs into a nail biting psychological thriller, in which the outcome is anything but predictable. Some hearts will be broken, while others will be reborn.

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