Book Review: The Optimist’s Guide to Letting Go by Amy E. Reichert

In the newest release from author Amy E. Reichart we are brought into the world of Gina, her daughter May and her mother Lorraine and the different manifestations of grief, loss and love that serve to unite a family that appears first divided by their experiences.
Gina and May are struggling with how to move forward following the death of their patriarch Drew. Both mother and daughter have slugged through the muck of grief in their own way but as time passes the loss grows heavier on their hearts and they must find a way to carry the burden together.
Reaching over to the glove compartment, she pulled a plastic bag containing a t-shirt she usually kept hidden in her closet but she occasionally brought with her like a security blanket. She pulled open the bag, her hands twisting the torn jersey fabric between her fingers. She held it to her nose. After two years, most of the scent came from her memory rather than the ragged material, and even that was fading. The thought seized in her chest, kicking her heart into a frantic pace and trapping the air in her lungs. She couldn’t get a breath. The slushy sounds of neighborhood traffic pulled away, and she could only hear her struggling body trying to cope.
Instead, Gina throws herself into the operation and management of her food truck Grilled G’s, giving her daughter, May, the space and freedom she believes she wants and needs. Meanwhile, May is caught up in the demands of adolescence while feeling adrift at the loss of her father—interpreting her mother’s hands-off approach as a lack of grief for his death or as a lack of love for herself. As they grow farther apart it takes the reveal of an unknown secret of Gina’s distant past for her to reevaluate the relationship with her own daughter and their shared relationship to their grief.
When Gina’s mother suffers a stroke and is rendered unable to speak more that a few garbled words, which is quite the opposite from her usual chatty demeanor, Gina is brought to her bedside, along with her sister Vicky, and together they help to rehabilitate her, both physically and emotionally. In the bustle of discovering her mother collapsed on her floor, Gina gathered the necessary items required of such a hospital visit, and in doing so uncovered a secret that Lorraine has kept for many years—one that will change her daughter’s lives forever. As the story alternates between Lorraine’s past, her present and the narratives of Gina and May we are able to see the distinct similarities between mother and daughter and the love they experienced and the losses they shared.
Roza was right, her girls would discover the truth soon enough. She’d kept her memories so secret, Lorraine didn’t know what would happen when she let them free. They were a swirling cloke that kept her warm during the darkest of nights, on mornings when she’d crawl out of bed and painted on a presentable face, in moments when Joe’s loss sucked the oxygen from the room. They were the glue that held her together, the shield that only she could use. If she loosened her hold on them after all this time, would she fall apart?
The Optimist’s Guide to Letting Go is a heartfelt tale of the unconditional love of family which can only be experienced at its fullest when our truest selves are laid bare for all to see. It is also a story of loss and the myriad ways individuals can work through grief, both together and alone.
A review copy of this title was provided by Gallery Books

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