Though the main review contains no spoilers, there will be a section with a trigger warning well-marked below.
Imogen Clark’s Reluctantly Home was an emotional roller coaster that pulls you in from the first moment and doesn’t let go.
Pip is recovering from a traumatic incident that sends her reeling. To help with her recovery, she’s begun volunteering in a local charity shop. When an old diary arrives with a box of books, Pip decides to take just a little peek, to help find the rightful owner, of course.
Evelyn Mountcastle is an aspiring actress in 1979, on the verge of her big break, when she must return home unexpectedly to her overbearing sister and a life entirely different than what she planned.
This dual timeline novel is paced brilliantly, with the stories of these two incredible characters interweaving in just the right way. What really makes it irresistible are the two protagonists.
Pip and Evelyn are vastly different and yet its their similarities that draw one to the other. They’re both likable, relatable, and flawed. They’re the kind of characters that you’re sad to leave, and that you hope get a sequel or at least a short story so you can spend just a bit more time with them. They’re thoroughly likable, the exact kind of person its easy to imagine befriending. They’re realistically flawed individuals, beautifully crafted to leave a lasting impression.
The themes in this novel are heavy, and it’s a safe bet to say you won’t walk away with dry eyes. But the heartbreak isn’t for heartbreak’s sake; this tugs on your emotions because it is so accurate. That’s why it cuts so deep.
This book is hard on the heart, but its also thought provoking, gently handled, and one that is sure to stay with you. Though the themes are heavy, it isn’t pointedly done to provoke an emotional response. Information is measured and meted out to build tension and intrigue in just the right way.
The cadence and voice of this writing is reminiscent of hearing a wonderful story from a great friend who just so happens to be a master storyteller; the sensitive subjects are handled appropriately while the story inspires empathy and introspective thinking.
I was gripped from start to finish by this novel. I adored it, and thought it was just so well done. It’s a tricky topic, and it definitely made me cry, but it also made me think. I just can’t resist a book that makes me take a closer look, that shifts my perspective, that makes me think about it while I’m doing life in between reading it. I really loved these characters; Pip is incredibly relatable, on the bad end of a tragic situation, and yet even as she struggles she strives to do better. Evelyn is inspiring, a girl full of moxie who becomes a strong, capable woman the precise moment it’s asked of her. I just loved living in their world, seeing 1979 London and modern day Southwold.
Imogen Clark’s Reluctantly Home will be available on April 29, 2021 from Lake Union Publishing and Amazon Publishing UK. I’m grateful to the publishers and NetGalley for providing an ARC of this novel for my review.
Trigger Warning and spoiler below– proceed with caution.
!Spoiler ahead in the trigger warning!
Trigger warning: This novel contains the death of two children.