It only takes a minute for Emmy’s life to flip upside down; her baby, the spot of joy in her life, stolen, her husband accusing her of the crime. After she goes on a frantic search, Emmy ends up in a mental hospital, longing for her stolen daughter and for justice. In the present day, fourteen-year-old Sophie is hidden from the world, forbidden to do so much as leave her house. She and her mother have constantly been hiding, but Sophie has never understood why. When she befriends her neighbor, a boy called Joey, Sophie begins to put the pieces of her life together and wonder. Told in alternating chapters between the two women, You Are My Only is the story of a mother’s love and a daughter’s longing.
Beth Kephart is a beautiful writer; I first experienced her wonderful style in Nothing But Ghosts and I’ve been looking forward to another read since. She has the incredible talent of getting right to the heart of human emotion and expressing it through her prose while telling a story. Some of the imagery is simply stunning, causing me to go back and read over again just to savor the beauty of the words. As you might expect, then, the point of this book is not the plot, though; it’s easy to see from the outset what exactly has happened.
Instead the book is a slow discovery, watching the characters, especially Sophie, work out what’s happened and how their lives have become like this. It’s also very much a tale about motherhood. Each of the adult women is a mother in different ways – Emmy, whose daughter has been stolen; Sophie’s mother, who craved a child; Joey’s aunts, who are perhaps the most traditionally “motherly” characters in the book despite their somewhat unconventional life. And in the center is Sophie, seeking a vision of motherhood she hasn’t had, and an opportunity to escape the stifling confines of her house and enjoy the life of an ordinary young girl. All of the characters are seeking something, and the heart of the book lies in whether or not they find it, and how they go about looking for it.
I do believe Kephart’s works should be read much more widely, and this wouldn’t be a bad place to start for any reader. Her books are lovely, evocative and full of pure emotion. I’d recommend both this and Nothing But Ghosts, and I’m very much looking forward to reading more of her work.
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