Title: The View from Prince Street by Mary Ellen Taylor
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 341 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
The author of The Union Street Bakery and At the Corner of King Street returns to Alexandria, Virginia, with a heartfelt tale of reconnection.
Rae McDonald was fifteen when a car accident took her sister’s life and threw her own into reckless turmoil. When she got pregnant a year later, she found a loving couple to adopt the child. Since then, she’s buried her grief and guilt under a heart of stone.
Lisa Smyth survived the fateful crash, but never told the truth about what happened. And when a family obligation draws her back to Alexandria, the weight of Lisa’s guilt grows heavier by the day.
As both women confront a past refusing to be forgotten, long-buried artifacts are discovered by the Shire Architectural Salvage Company that point to a shared history between families. Now, Rae and Lisa must finally ask themselves if denying the past is worth sacrificing the future.
The View from Prince Street by Mary Ellen Taylor is an absolutely beautiful novel of forgiveness, healing and letting go of past secrets.
Rae McDonald is a successful psychologist with a thriving practice. Due to the tragedies in her past, she is quite reserved and she does such an excellent job of hiding her emotions, she has a reputation of being cold-hearted. As a teenager, the deaths of her father and older sister Jennifer just about shattered her, but it was giving her baby son up for adoption that caused her to become so emotionally detached. Rae has kept her shameful secret for sixteen years, but when her son contacts her for information about their family, she is afraid he will resent her for giving him up. Overcoming her fear of her son’s rejection, she agrees to meet with him but Rae is taken off guard by how emotional she becomes once she begins to open her heart.
Lisa Smythe was in the same car accident that killed Rae’s sister and she, too, has struggled in the intervening years. She turned to alcohol to numb her pain but she has been sober for the past twelve years. She left town to pursue a career in photography, but after her beloved Aunt Amelia is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, she returns to Alexandria to be with her for whatever time she has left. Lisa is very open about her battle with alcoholism and she works hard to maintain her sobriety. Although she has had her drinking under control for many years, the weight of guilt and a long held secret becomes such a heavy burden that Lisa finds it more and more difficult to resist the urge to pick up a drink.
Both women are discovering the devastating impact that secrets have on not only their happiness but their overall emotional well being. Rae is quite introspective as her emotions become impossible to suppress after her son contacts her. However she refuses to allow her feelings free reign for any length of time and although it is not easy, she continues ignoring her pain and regrets. Lisa makes the first steps in facing her painful past by paying a long overdue visit to Jennifer’s grave but she continues to avoiding making full amends to Rae. As she and Rae continue to cross paths, Lisa proves to be a surprising source of strength for Rae as she agrees to meet with her son, but their time together continues to remind Lisa of the terrible secret she is hiding from her.
Interwoven with the events of the present is a long ago curse involving three families who settled in the area. The removal of stones from Rae’s family’s original homestead led to the discovery of a witch’s bottle which was intended to ward off a witch’s spell and evil curses. With Rae’s permission, local history buff Margaret McCrae uses the McDonald family documents to research the family’s history. Since two other witches bottles have also been recently discovered, Margaret suspects a connection between the three families and her research yields startling results.
The View from Prince Street by Mary Ellen Taylor is an engrossing novel with an incredible cast of appealing characters. The plot is well-developed and the story arc about the families’ shared past is quite intriguing. Although characters from previous works play prominent roles in this most recent release, The View from Prince Street can be read as a standalone. A charming novel about family, friendship and new beginnings that I loved and highly recommend to anyone who enjoys contemporary women’s fiction.