“LOVE, ALICE,” BY BARBARA DAVIS
PUBLICATION: BERKLEY; DECEMBER 6, 2016
Synopsis: 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 the upcoming release from Barbara Davis that tells the story of 4 very different women whose lives intersect after a moment in a cemetery. Dovie is at the cemetery having her lunch, as she does every day since her fiance, William, committed suicide the year before. She watches an older woman approach and place an envelope on Alice Tandy’s grave, famous in Charleston because of petty gossip and affair rumors. Dovie knows that it’s wrong, but she reads the letter from a mother begging her daughter’s forgiveness and gets completely wrapped up in the story and what happened. In the meantime, Dovie is putting together a huge fundraising gala for the art museum where she works, which brings her into contact with Austin Tate, son of Gemma Tate and part of one of the wealthiest and most well-known families in Charleston. Dovie continues to Spend time with Dora, the older woman that left the letter on Alice’s grave, as she builds a relationship with both Austin and Gemma Tate, trying to discover what happened with Alice, as well as, trying to understand what drove her fiance to suicide.
Although this novel reads and flows well, it is actually very complex because of all of the characters and subplots. First, there is Dovie’s story. Dovie is literally trapped in her life, unable to move forward after the suicide of her fiance only weeks before their wedding. He left no note and she saw no signs prior to the suicide. Since his death, she spends her lunch break from work sitting by his grave, eating her lunch and talking to one of the groundskeepers, Josiah. Next, there is Dora, who has traveled from England to beg her daughter’s forgiveness for sending her away when she became pregnant years ago. However, once Dora arrives in Charleston, she learns that Alice has since died. Gemma Tate is another prominent woman in the novel. An older, wealthy, but extremely kind woman who has been ailing since the death of her husband, although he was anything but a kind man. Finally, there is Alice, who is deceased at present time of the novel, but speaks to the readers through letters that she wrote to her child that was taken from her at birth.
Davis has weaved a beautiful, yet heartbreaking tale in “Love, Alice.” For anyone that has mourned the loss of a loved one, regretted a decision they have made regarding a loved one or felt the loss of being separated from a child – you will relate to this novel in a profound way. With that being sad, this is not what I would consider sad or tear-jerker reading, but more something that makes you feel that sting of regret from several of the characters. Not only does it deal with loss, but also addresses the age-old question, “how well can you really know someone?” Dovie faces many truths that although she claimed she was searching for answers, were difficult to swallow when they finally appeared. Even Alice, through her letters, revealed moments of shock and dismay regarding actions of her mother, Dora and from Gemma.
Warning that this story contains heart-wrenching details of a young girl being sent away to give birth and then immediately have the child taken away. If you are not familiar with the Magdalene Asylums or the Magdalene Laundries, this novel touches on the horrors that occurred at these places where unwed mothers were sent between 1765 – 1990. Yes, you read that correctly, until 1990. We’ve all heard stories of unwed mothers being sent away to convents to have their babies, in order to avoid shaming their families. This is a whole different ballgame and an entirely different level of abuse. Even now, the United Nations only acknowledges verbal abuse, despite mass graves demonstrating the evidence of years of physical abuse and women literally being worked to death. All of this after having their babies taken from them and sold to adoption agencies, mostly in the United States. I, of course, never encountered any of this horror, but am very well acquainted with being separated from my children, which is something no one gets past, no matter what you do. it’s a gap inside of you that never subsides, despite the polite smiles you flash in attempts to fool others that you are “fine.”
Getting off of my soap box, this is an incredible novel that everyone should read. This novel touches on regrets, loss, moving forward, and finding love and happiness out of a bad situation. Author Barbara Davis has created an amazing story that will touch your heart to its greatest depth.
Learn more about Barbara Davis by visiting her web page.
*Thanks to NetGalley for providing a copy of this ARC in exchange for an honest review.