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Review: Serendipity, Louise Shaffer

Though Carrie Manning is the daughter of a Tony award-winning Broadway playwright and granddaughter of a famed Broadway actress, she knows very little about her family.  Her austere mother, Rose Manning, has devoted her life to charity and seems to have put her past completely behind her.  When Rose dies, Carrie finds herself lost at thirty-seven.  She can’t settle on a career, abandoned the man she loved three days before their wedding, and is now bereft of the mother she’s spent the last year caring for.  Carrie sets out on a quest to find her past, to discover not only her mother’s history but that of her glamorous grandmother Lu Lawson and her Italian immigrant great-grandmother Mifalda.

I really enjoyed this multi-generational novel.  All of the women are vastly different but each believable in her own way.  Mifalda is strict and old-fashioned, but still loves fancy clothing and wants what she believes to be the best for her daughter and granddaughter.  She has the beginnings of independence, but she’s been taught to smother her true inclinations in order to further her children’s lives.  Lucia, better known as Lu, can perceive her mother’s unhappiness, and with her extraordinary musical talent, is determined to find a life for herself outside of marriage, and her determination allows her to succeed.  Rose grows up as a spoiled girl, but she too shares her mother’s determination and insistence on getting what she wants.  Carrie, in the present day, has no idea what she wants or what to do with herself, having lived in her mother’s shadow her entire life.  Each strand of the narrative combines to give us a full picture of both how far this family has come and how far they have regressed.

The ending of the book was not quite as spectacular or shocking as the back cover implies, but I think it fit perfectly with that particular character’s personality.  This is not a book that speeds along with excitement or has a shocking revelation.  It’s a slow unveiling, learning who these women are through their stories, which is engrossing and fascinating.  I had a hard time putting this book down once I got involved in it.

I would definitely recommend this book to another woman.  It’s not only a wonderful story but a demonstration of how far we’ve come since the first half of the twentieth century. I received this book from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers’ program and I was so pleased to discover that for once, the algorithim selection got it right.  I enjoyed every word.

Buy Serendipity on Amazon.

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