Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Only the Beautiful by Susan Meissner ~ Book Review

Sixteen year old Roseanne grew up living on a vineyard in California in the '30's.  Her father was the Calvert's vinedresser . When her parents die in an accident, Truman and Celine Calvert reluctantly take her in to be her guardians but Celine puts her to work as the house maid with the thought that it would train her to eventually be able to find work.  While Rosie is grateful to have a home, she finds herself very lonely, especially as she also has a secret she promised her mom she would never share.  Rosie has an ability to see colors when she hears sounds (synesthesia).  But in her grief and inexperience when the Calvert's son befriends her Rosie shares her secret with him.  As most secrets do, Rosie's secret eventually comes out and when she finds herself underage, unmarried and pregnant, Celine banishes her and turns her over the the state.  Leaving with only a small bag containing her clothes and an amaryllis plant that Truman Calvert's sister, Helen, once gave her to give her hope, Rose finds herself not at a home for unwed mothers but an institution for the mentally insane where her unique ability is not understood or known and she is forced to endure therapy to try and stop the colors.  Thinking once she has the baby she can leave and start a new life Rosie is devastated to learn that her baby will be taken from her and adopted out and she will have a procedure done that will prevent her from bringing anymore children into the world with her abnormality.  Meanwhile Helen Calvert is experiencing firsthand Hitler's own way of purifying his race as the family she nannies for in Vienna has their disabled daughter ripped away and taken to a special school.  After many efforts to try and get the child back, Helen returns to the U.S. heartbroken and guilt ridden.  When she discovers that Rosie was sent away under the circumstances she was, she determines that she will find her.  Much to her horror, she discovers similar circumstances happening right in America that she experienced while in Europe.  

First off the cover is absolutely gorgeous.  Second this story was so good.  It is told in two parts.  The first half of the book is Rosie's story and the second half is Helen's and then the author brings the threads together in the end.  The book is written in a unique way in each story where it goes back and forth between past and present.  The author does it well and I was never confused as to what was happening.  Prepare yourself to have your heart broken, I cried in several parts and felt all the emotions throughout.  The story is sad as it deals with some very difficult subjects and horrors that happened both in America and WWII and the author very adeptly links the two together drawing parallels to make the reader think.  Rosie and Helen's stories are one of loss and sorrow, grief and horror, but also deep love and courage in the midst of the unthinkable.  In dealing with some very hard subjects the author was able to get ideas across without going into graphic details which I very much appreciated.  She drew me into the lives, thoughts and emotions of her characters and it was hard to put the book down.


trigger warning for the rape of a minor

I gave this story a 10/10.

Reading Challenge Goal Met:  a book a month from my library holds


Faith said...

OOH I've read at least one of her books and maybe a second. I loved the one I read. I'm going to see if our library has this one. In fact, I'm about to return a book I reviewed a little while ago and get some more out! Thanks for this great review

Barbara H. said...

This sounds so good. I've loved others os Susan's novels. Putting this on my TBR list.