Title: Love, Alice by Barbara Davis
Genre: Contemporary, Historical (60s), Women’s Fiction, Romance
Length: 428 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
From the author of Summer at Hideaway Key comes a sweeping new Southern women’s fiction novel about forgiving the past one letter at a time…
The truth lies between the lines…
A year ago, Dovie Larkin’s life was shattered when her fiancé committed suicide just weeks before their wedding. Now, plagued by guilt, she has become a fixture at the cemetery where William is buried, visiting his grave daily, waiting for answers she knows will never come.
Then one day, she sees an old woman whose grief mirrors her own. Fascinated, she watches the woman leave a letter on a nearby grave. Dovie ignores her conscience and reads the letter—a mother’s plea for forgiveness to her dead daughter—and immediately needs to know the rest of the story.
As she delves deeper, a collection of letters from the cemetery’s lost and found begins to unravel a decades-old mystery involving one of Charleston’s wealthiest families. But even as Dovie seeks to answer questions about another woman’s past—questions filled with deception, betrayal, and heartbreaking loss—she starts to discover the keys to love, forgiveness, and finally embracing the future…
Love, Alice is a heart wrenching story of loss and grief that is ultimately uplifting. With the secondary story arc that takes place during the 1960s, Barbara Davis brings much needed attention to the abhorrent “Magdalene Laundries” where unwed mothers were forced to give up their babies and endure horrific living conditions. The present day storyline is equally affecting as a grief-stricken young woman searches for answers about her fiancé’s inexplicable suicide a year earlier.
On the one year anniversary of her fiancé William Prescott’s death, Dovie Larkin is no closer to understanding why he took his own life and she still remains mired in grief as she visits his grave daily. With her family, boss and friends running out of patience with her inability to move past her tragedy, she is already in danger of losing her job when she becomes obsessed with a series of letters that were written by Alice Tandy during the 1960s. Trying to help Alice’s elderly mom, Dora, find a measure of peace for forcing her unwed daughter give her baby up for adoption, Dovie puts her career in jeopardy when her search for answers leads to the Tate family, who just happen to have recently made a huge donation to the museum where she works. Working closely with Austin Tate on a fundraiser, Dovie tries to respect his request that she stay away from his grieving mother, Gemma, but she quickly realizes that Gemma quite possibly holds the key to finding out what happened to Alice. Will uncovering the truth about what happened to Alice and the baby she gave up for adoption help heal Dora’s wounds? Can understanding Dora’s grief provide a way for Dovie to move past her own grief?
Dovie’s need for answers about William’s suicide is completely understandable but it is very frustrating watching her push away her friends and family in the process. It is also somewhat maddening that even though she KNOWS her job is in jeopardy, she continues to make reckless decisions that puts her career on the line. It is not until she meets Austin that she is forced to take a hard look at her relationship with William and face the truth that has been staring her in face all along. Dovie is also very dismayed by her unnerving attraction to the handsome Tate heir, but Austin has his own demons to make peace with before their relationship can move forward.
The storyline about Alice’s time at the Blackhurst Asylum for Unwed Mothers is incredibly poignant and utterly heartrending. The stigma of unwed pregnancy is the driving force behind Dora’s decision to force her daughter to give up her child for adoption. Through a series of letters written over the years to her beloved baby, the truth about Alice’s time at Blackhurst and her subsequent search for her child emerges in heartbreaking detail.
From the first gut wrenching and emotional letter to the final deeply moving missive, Love, Alice is an absolutely riveting story that is impossible to put down. The plot is a bit predictable but this does not lessen the impact of this touching story. The characters are beautifully developed and although deeply flawed, they are sympathetic and easy to root for. Barbara Davis’s decision to include the “Magdalene Laundries” in the novel adds an incredible amount of depth and substance to the storyline. The addition of a slight romantic element lightens the story but it also forces Dovie and Austin to deal with the unresolved issues from their previous relationships. I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend beautiful novel of healing and redemption.