Fixing Delilah by Sarah Ockler
Little, Brown and Company, 2010
Fixing Delilah is a story about discovering buried family secrets and mending present relationships. The story begins when Delilah Hannaford's grandmother dies, and she and her mother spend the summer in Vermont preparing for the funeral, prepping her grandmother's house for sale, allocating assets, etc. Delilah and her mother clearly have a strained relationship at the start. But we soon learn of a big family fall-out at her grandfather's funeral when Delilah was eight, between Claire Hannaford (Delilah's mother), Rachel Hannaford (Delilah's aunt), and their mother, which, Delilah guesses, had something to do with the third Hannaford daughter, Stephanie, who died as a teenager before Delilah was born.
Following all that? This story is an intricately woven web and masterfully presented. It's more difficult to try and tell someone what it is about than to simply read it and learn these things along the way. However, it wasn't until about a hundred pages into it before I felt like I had to keep reading. But that feeling did come. I finished the final two-thirds of the book in record time (for me, that is. I'm a slow reader).
Through Delilah's discoveries of the events leading to her aunt Stephanie's final moments, there is also a romance ignited between her and a boy she hadn't seen since she was eight (the last time she'd been to her grandmother's house). It's clear from the moment he is introduced that there is going to be something big between them, and because it was so obvious it fell a little flat for me. I wasn't impressed with the romance aspect of this story at all, which made some sections feel like they were dragging.
There is a huge twist near the end that I totally didn't see coming, which reveals a gargantuan secret Delilah's mother had been keeping since before Delilah was born. This scene was powerful and nearly brought me to tears. Very well done, and completely unexpected (in a good way). Don't go reading ahead to see what it is, that will ruin it. Just trust me. It's brilliant.
Cover Art: 3 stars (relevant but not very eye-catching, in my opinion)
Title: 3 stars (it gave me the impression that Delilah is severely broken, but really it was her mother who needed more fixing than anyone else. kind of misleading, but still relevant)
Writing: 4 stars (beautifully written but some areas were overworded for my taste)
Story: 5 stars (emotionally compelling from start to finish)
Characters: 4 stars (excellent but I don't like it when the supporting characters clearly outshine the main character. Delilah was bland compared to the others around her)
Ending: 4 stars (excellent climactic peak, but the denouement seemed to go on forever. I prefer a punchy ending with a quick wrap-up)
Overall Rating: 4 stars