CLM's Reviews > What Matters Most

What Matters Most by Luanne Rice
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Apr 19, 2008

it was ok
bookshelves: fiction
Read in April, 2008

** spoiler alert ** Although Bernadette is in love with her childhood friend Tom, she believes her vocation to the church comes first so insists on giving up their illegitimate child for adoption in Ireland (presumably in the 70s). She then becomes a nun (also in Ireland, although she is American and mysteriously ends up back in Connecticut where she ends up running a branch of her order) and Tom, strangely, becomes the groundskeeper on what was once his family's estate before it became a convent. Oddly, one would think Tom could have insisted on raising his child himself, even if it was contrary to what Bernadette wanted and perhaps before it was common for a father's adoption rights to be considered (and in this case, he reluctantly agreed to Bernadette's wishes). It takes nearly 25 years for Bernadette to investigate what happened to her son. When she eventually finds him, she is surprised and hurt that he is angry with her for abandoning him.

In the meantime, her son James grows up in an orphanage, also with a devoted childhood friend who is his true love, Kathleen (childhood friendships are a recurring theme in Rice's books). Improbably, Kathleen's parents retrieve her from the orphanage when she is 13 so she ends up in America also, but oddly, working for an unpleasant but affluent family in Newport, where she is the cook by day but by night has sex with the vicious elder son of the house. I think one is meant to understand that she misses James so much and feels she let him down by leaving the orphanage that she a) is so lonely she craves contact with anyone, and b) feels she doesn't deserve anything better than meaningless contact with vicious son. But it is unclear why, instead of cowering in the unheated attic, someone in her early 20s doesn't get a better job where she might meet someone her own age or (if she feels so unworthy) why she doesn't hire an investigator to find James in Ireland if she cannot locate him online. Granted, being named Sullivan and Murphy will not help them locate each other and we do need a plot.

As always, Rice creates interesting characters and vivid descriptions but here her two heroines were so annoying that it prevented me from enjoying the book, which Rice had kindly autographed for me in June.
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