Family is the cornerstone of Mimi Malloy, At Last! a novel by Julia MacDonnell (A Year of Favor), a later-in-life, coming-of-age story about the nature of memory. The heroine, Maire "Mimi" Sheehan Malloy—who sneaks cigarettes and Manhattans and worships the music of Frank Sinatra—thought she was finally settling into her forced retirement. But when a leak springs in a closet ceiling of Mimi's modest apartment in Quincy, Massachusetts, the 68 year-old divorcee—one of seven children in an Irish-Catholic family and mother of six, disparate daughters—has her life upended. After the building handyman—a World War II veteran and widower, with a "bum leg...and a big heart"—addresses the leak, Mimi discovers a striking silver pendant with an aquamarine stone. How did it get in her closet? Mimi, having suffered mini-strokes that have left holes in her memory, cannot remember anything about the pendant or its history.
While Mimi and the handyman begin a relationship, Mimi's grandnephew enlists her help for a genealogy study for school. Mimi's sisters and daughters press for details from the "glory days" of childhood. However, a painful past, long repressed and filled with an abusive stepmother and a long-lost baby sister, suddenly emerges. Might the pendant somehow be connected?
MacDonnell's multi-faceted novel unspools via layered flashbacks. Mimi's no-nonsense narrative voice and a cast of well-drawn characters take readers on a humbling journey that explores the past and present; the bonds between parents, children and sisters; the power of secrets; and heroic acts of love.
Picador, $35.00 hardcover, 9781250041548 , 288 pp
Publication Date: April 8, 2014
Note: This review is a reprint and is being posted (in a slightly different form) with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (3/18/14), click HERE