Main characters: Cameron “Cam” MacDonald, Allie MacDonald, Jamie MacDonald
Time and place: 1995, Wheelock, Massachusetts
First sentence: When she had packed all the artifacts that made up their personal history into liquor boxes, the house became strictly a feminine place.
Summary: The quiet life of the small city of Wheelock is shattered one day when a man drives up to the chief of police and says “My wife here, Maggie, is dead. And I’m the one who killed her.”. The chief, Cameron MacDonald, had no choice but to arrest him and charge him with Murder One. And yet, things aren’t exactly what they seem — and the trial to follow will change the lives of everyone involved. In the end, this is a story of love, the things people do for it, and, of course, mercy.
I very much liked the way the author had set up backstories for each of the main characters, to help the reader understand them better. From this point of view my favorite just had to be Allie, whose story was not only the most detailed one but also had the most laudable feelings, her devotion to her husband Cam shining from one end to another. At the opposite end of the palette is Cam himself, who we know quite little about (he travelled, he dreams to travel again, he accepted his duty to his clan) and are given very few reasons to actually like. We may of course understand him at times, condemn him at others, but I don’t think there was a reason for me to actually like him. If anything I rather disliked him a bit for the way he took his wife’s affection for him for granted. There were a few additional characters I have found very colorful and as such I have to mention them here: Ellen, Cam’s mother, widowed and newly in touch with her spiritual side, and Angus, Cam’s uncle, who has lived the most part of his life in Scotland and who sometimes finds himself in the mind of an ancestor of his (usually while he is fighting at Culloden Moor).
Speaking of which, I am not very certain of how I feel about all the Scottish elements the author has added to the story. I was surprised, of course, to see the battle scenes at Culloden, and I also liked the way their shared past unified the people of Wheelock (all their ancestors having come there, in the 18th century, from the very same place). And yet I don’t find it very believable that, quite a few generations after leaving Scotland, the people there are still in need of a laird to nominally protect them, or that they still refer to non-Scots as Sassenachs. I cannot imagine a teenager of today for example, being so bent on respecting such old and faraway customs. But anyway, believable or not, and likeable to me or not, I have to admit it was quite an original touch. :)
I liked the fact that the author has attacked quite a controversial issue, namely euthanasia. What I wasn’t that fond of, and sort of missed throughout the book, was the presentation of more than one point of view. I mean, not only it can be clearly seen on what side of the argument the author is, she never actually bothered to even hint at the other side. Sure, it can be argued that we had the whole trial and both prosecution and defense have presented their considerations on the matter, but in my eyes they discussed quite another matter (“is euthanasia Murder One” rather than “can euthanasia be justified” — I don’t know what better way to say this, I know that at first sight they seem to be the same but I found them to be different). Perhaps what I am missing is the feeling I got when I read another book of the author’s, where both sides of the matter discussed there were so well represented I was actually torn apart between them and couldn’t decide who I thought was right. Sure, I started reading this book while already having a strong opinion towards the matter discussed, and yet I very much missed the battle of ideas I was expecting to find.
A quote I liked:
What else had they promised each other? She remembered Cam looking down at her, his voice steady and firm as it fell around her shoulders like a protective cap. With all that I have, and all that I am, I thee endow.
She had said the same words to him. Had they been true, they should have traded bits and pieces of their selves the same way they had shared blood: Cam might have taken her calmness, she might have inherited his quick temper; and so on, swapping emotions and attributes until they were no longer opposites but two of a kind.
What I liked most: The way the author did show nuances at times. For example, Jamie killed his wife because she asked him to. That’s the obvious reason, he loved her so much he honored her request. But there is also a less obvious reason, one that Jamie almost didn’t acknowledge himself: somewhere in the deep recesses of his mind, a part of him was hoping that by killing the sick Maggie, the Maggie that now was, he would somehow get back the healthy Maggie, the Maggie that used to be. Sure it’s not a very reasonable thing to expect, but the mind works in mysterious ways, and the fact that it didn’t happen (doh) only made it more difficult for Jamie to live on.
I also liked the subtle hint that show spoiler
What I liked least: I didn’t very much get the connection between Allie and Jamie. While I can understand the reason why she first paid him a visit, I don’t find that plausible the fact that a short while later they ended up inseparable, despite Allie’s husband disapproving of their friendship. What did Jamie have to offer Allie anyway, why did she keep hanging around him at first?
Recommend it to? Everyone who enjoys reading about controversial topics :)
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