Having really enjoyed Dilloway’s debut novel, How to Be an American Housewife, I was very enthusiastic about her sophomore attempt, and it didn’t disappoint. The writing was cleaner and more confident and the characters were very well developed. This is a day-in-the-life portrait of Gal: kidney patient, high school biology teacher, rose enthusiast, and sudden foster parent. The reluctance she initially feels when her 15 year old niece Riley shows up requires Gal to shift her priorities. No longer solitary and going through the motions of caring for her garden, teaching, and attending dialysis, Gal must find a way to incorporate Riley into her routine. Gal is often self-righteous, bordering on smug, keeping people at a distance by correcting and reprimanding, especially her wayward sister and Riley’s mother, Becky. Dilloway writes teenagers well, as exhibited in Riley’s abrupt mood changes; one moment she’s enthusiastic and cheerful, the next sullen and combative.
As the weeks turn into months, the relationship between niece and aunt blossoms (pun intended). They become more dependent on one another and more interested in each other’s lives. But Gal still struggles with the limitations of her disease, and the possibility of getting a new kidney (or not) keeps her toeing the fine line between hope and despair. There were some elements that fell a little flat for me (Brad and Samantha becoming irrelevant), but they were minor. More than anything, I think this novel demonstrates a lovely evolution of two very different characters into a single family unit as Riley learns to trust her aunt and Gal understands the importance in giving as well as taking.
I received a complimentary copy of this book via the Amazon Vine program.