I think this is now my favorite Allen book.
Part of the reason I liked this so well is because it was exactly what I needed right now...essentially, I inadvertently pulled a Chloe in that this book showed up on my holds list and I checked it out and listened to it and it helped soothe my troubled soul. Well, if I had a soul. It helped calm the oozing, black miasma that takes the place of my soul, is probably a more-accurate statement.
This is a story about oppressed women, people who are kept in little boxes (closets?) by their mothers, their fathers, their grandmothers, their significant others, their perceived roles in society, and by themselves. These boxes are dismantled to varying degrees in a number of ways throughout the book, though only for the main women of the story that we know of. (Olivia's granddaughter is probably still under the old woman's thumb)
So! It's probably fairly obvious to readers of this genre or of horrorish/supernatural tales that Della Lee, the closet-dweller, isn't what she seems.
That's all fine and fun but what I liked was the friendship Della orchestrated between Josie and Chloe which was followed by a reluctant bond between Josie and Della. Female friendship is such a strange thing; I find that many women can't do it. They have this idea that women are essentially evil and untrustworthy. I get that; I thought the same thing all through college because my female peers were often catty, untrustworty, horrible people. You get burned enough times by girls and you avoid them. But that's not actually how female friendship really works. If you can find it, it is so worth having and keeping forever and I like that this is a theme throughout the book. The InstaFriend thing is explained which didn't do anything for me one way or another but does magically make sense of the super blossoming adoration between Josie and Chloe.
And speaking of Chloe - I love LOVED her books. LOVED THEM! The whole idea of books appearing as needed is charming! I guess I have the next best thing in that I work with books all day, four days a week, but still. This is like magical readers advisory and I completely loved that.
The romance is probably really nice and wonderful. I hate romance so that was just background noise for me but I'm sure people who like romance will think the two main and one side love stories are adorable and sweet, etc. I couldn't connect with Chloe and Jake; I don't buy the whole "accidental moment of indiscretion" thing and I've always believed that if he cheats once, he'll do it again but...her situation, not mine.
I was torn on my feelings about Helena. How much of her is a big stereotype? Is it a racist stereotype? I don't know; I'm not the one to answer that. Still, something about her rudimentary English and her superstitious ways and her little Oldsie/Oldgret joke rubbed me the wrong way, though I don't know why. It's not like I haven't met people who speak broken English and who are highly superstitous. This representation just bothered me for some reason, maybe because she was a pivotal background character and I wanted more from her? I don't know.
It was the overall feeling of the story, the building of friendships which lead to the breaking down of walls which lead to new experiences and richer lives, that had me all in love with the story. It makes me feel good to know that, at least in FictionLand, tiny touches of everyday magic can help move a body along to a healed place. That was a message I needed to hear right now.