Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Review: What Could Be Saved by Liese O'Halloran Schwarz

Title: What Could Be Saved
Author: Liese O'Halloran Schwarz
Published: January 2021, Atria Books
Format: ARC E-copy, 460 pages
Source: Netgalley

An enthralling, redemptive novel set in Bangkok in 1972 and Washington, DC, in 2019 about an expatriate child who goes missing, whose family is contacted decades later by a man claiming to be the vanished boy.

Washington, DC, 2019: Laura Preston is a reclusive artist at odds with her older sister Bea as their elegant, formidable mother slowly slides into dementia. When a stranger contacts Laura claiming to be her brother who disappeared forty years earlier when the family lived in Bangkok, Laura ignores Bea’s warnings of a scam and flies to Thailand to see if it can be true. But meeting him in person leads to more questions than answers.

Bangkok, 1972: Genevieve and Robert Preston live in a beautiful house behind a high wall, raising their three children with the help of a cadre of servants. In these exotic surroundings, Genevieve strives to create a semblance of the life they would have had at home in the US—ballet and riding classes for the children, impeccable dinner parties, a meticulously kept home. But in truth, Robert works for American intelligence, Genevieve finds herself drawn into a passionate affair with her husband’s boss, and their serene household is vulnerable to unseen dangers of a rapidly changing world and a country they don’t really understand.

Alternating between past and present as all of the secrets are revealed, What Could Be Saved is an unforgettable novel about a family shattered by loss and betrayal, and the beauty and hope that can exist even in the midst of brokenness.

My thoughts: There is nothing I love more than discovering new-to-me authors and even though this is not this author's debut novel, it's the first time I've read anything by her. And what a fantastic book it was!

I am such a fan of books that deal with family dramas of any kind, but when you add in a missing kid that returns to the family decades later, a family that has lived abroad and because of the child that goes missing becomes broken, I am all in. This book completely captivated me from the beginning and told using a dual timeline, I was equally invested in both time frames as there was just so much to be found out in each. 

One thing that I found so remarkable was the author's ability to really give us such a sense of place, especially when the characters are in Bangkok. This is a place I have never been, yet I found I could easily picture it through the beautifully descriptive writing. It wasn't too verbose, yet it was written with just enough description that I was able to picture the sights and sounds of where these characters were. 

This book shows how just like the ripple effect of a butterfly wing, the little truths we hold back can have devastating effects later on. And that sometimes the lengths we go to protect those we love end up hurting them more than we realize. This book takes you on quite an emotional journey and I could not have loved it more! It is heartbreaking at times, yet also full of redemption and hope, and I definitely recommend it!



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