Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

A Million Reasons Why

Rate this book
When two strangers are linked by a mail-in DNA test, it’s an answered prayer―that is, for one half-sister. For the other, it will dismantle everything she knows to be true.

But as they step into the unfamiliar realm of sisterhood, the roles will reverse in ways no one could have foreseen.

Caroline lives a full, happy life―thriving career, three feisty children, enviable marriage, and a close-knit extended family. She couldn’t have scripted it better. Except for one thing:

She’s about to discover her fundamental beliefs about them all are wrong.

Sela lives a life in shades of gray, suffering from irreversible kidney failure. Her marriage crumbled in the wake of her illness. Her beloved mother and lifelong best friend passed away. She refuses to be defined by her grief, but still, she worries about what will happen to her two-year-old son if she doesn’t find a donor match in time.

She’s the only one who knows Caroline is her half-sister. That Caroline may be her best hope for a future. But Sela’s world isn’t as clear-cut as it appears―and one misstep could destroy it all.

After all, would you risk everything to save the life of the person who turned yours upside down?

From the moment Caroline meets Sela, both must reexamine what it really means to be family, the depths of a mother’s love, and the limits and the power of forgiveness.

368 pages, Hardcover

First published March 23, 2021

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Jessica Strawser

7 books1,365 followers
JESSICA STRAWSER is the author of five book club favorite novels: ALMOST MISSED YOU, NOT THAT I COULD TELL (a Book of the Month selection), FORGET YOU KNOW ME, A MILLION REASONS WHY, and THE NEXT THING YOU KNOW, a People Magazine Pick in 2022 (coming new in paperback in March 2023). She is Editor-at-Large for Writer’s Digest, a contributing editor for Career Authors, and a popular speaker at writing conferences, book clubs, and book festivals.

Her work has appeared in The New York Times' Modern Love, Publishers Weekly, and other fine venues. She lives with her husband and two children in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she was named the 2019 Writer-in-Residence for the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. She is a member of Tall Poppy Writers, Fiction Writers Co-op, and Women's Fiction Writers Association. Connect with her on Twitter @jessicastrawser and Facebook and Instagram @jessicastrawserauthor. Visit jessicastrawser.com to learn more.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
1,095 (23%)
4 stars
2,001 (42%)
3 stars
1,323 (27%)
2 stars
279 (5%)
1 star
62 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 846 reviews
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,203 reviews40.8k followers
April 5, 2021
What will you do if you’re in those characters’ shoes? I probably got the shoe off and started to run away as soon as reading the dilemmas they have to deal with! This is massive, powerful, soul shaking, thought provoking story!
Lately I start to read so many stories about finding your siblings via ancestry websites. Most of them were thrillers and one of the sisters turns out to mad person to avenge the other one kind of premise mostly irritated me.

But thankfully this book’s genre is not a thriller.
The formulation to bring two sisters together may remind us of the other stories but we sense Jodi Picoult’s My sister’s keeper kind of dramatic, emotional vibes which also presents us a mind blowing, realistic story with well-crafted, easily relatable characters.

We have two protagonists who are also narrators of the story.

One of them is Caroline who seems like having it all: a marriage that makes everyone jealous around here, three feisty kids, a successful career. When you google happiness, her photo appears on your screen. But nothing as it seems and our other POV belongs to Sela who tries to gather crumbling pieces of her own life. She already lost her mother and best friend. Her marriage fails and she’s suffering from kidney disease now she’s at the risk to lose her two years old son. She needs a donor to save her life which creates the biggest predicament between sisters.

Sela needs Caroline’s help because she can be a probable donor match but will Caroline accept to help her stepsister?

Before passing the spoiler territory, I stuffed my mouth with spicy Doritos and I’m screaming in pain because it’s way too much spicy than I expected and but thankfully I prevented a possible blurting out. ( only thing I blurted out from my nose is huge piece of extra spicy chip!)

I have to admit not only two protagonists but also the supporting characters’ dilemmas regarding to the situations they’re dealing with making you think a lot because each one of them are right when you listen to their side of the story. You cannot get angry any of them because each of the characters look at the matters from different perspectives and you learn to respect their decisions.

The author did a marvelous job by picking up a sensitive: life and death situation and her skilled, impeccable writing style hooks you up. You start to question your own realities and think what you would do if you were in the same situation.

It’s truly moving, heart wrenching and provocative story. And the stunning part about this book, the characters still stay in your head. I’m so sure at least one more week I’ll keep thinking about them.

Of course this means I’m rounding up my 4.5 stars to 5!

Special thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for sharing this remarkable ARC copy in exchange my honest thoughts.
Profile Image for Jayme.
1,141 reviews1,898 followers
March 24, 2021
I was thrilled to receive a Publisher’s invitation to read a VERY early copy of this book as Jessica Strawser writes terrific Contemporary Fiction, and this book is no exception!

This will be perfect for your BOOK CLUB to read and discuss, and it just published TODAY!

Walt surprises his wife, Caroline, and her parents with what he thinks will be a unique and fun Christmas gift-sending in their DNA samples to see what they will find!

What they find is a half sister that nobody knew about!

Oops! Guess that skeleton isn’t staying in the closet!

Caroline’s half sister is Sela...a single mother to two year old Brody.

She is also a woman in need of a kidney transplant.

But, how do you make the “BIG ASK”, to a half sister you have only just met?!

The book begins slowly, with a lot of introspection by Caroline, as one would expect when you are considering such a big decision, on top of such shocking news.

And, everyone has an opinion.

We hear from both sisters, in alternating chapters, and each woman is thoughtful as they navigate this new relationship.

I felt their nerves, in the sometimes awkward conversations!

Each new revelation seemed to lead to another.

As Sela’s disease progresses, I learned a lot about the process of Kidney donation-

Sometimes through Sela’s wonderful nurse, Janie.
Sometimes through Caroline’s investigation into the process.

You may think you know exactly where this book is going but TRUST me, you DON’T!

An altruistic donor is someone who was willing to donate a kidney but isn’t a match for the person asking-but they donate anyway. It starts a kidney donor chain, creating endless recipient-donor pairings, with the person they were willing to donate to-receiving a kidney from someone else who is a match for them-because of the kidney that was donated on their behalf.

Imagine if this book inspires some Altruistic donations!

How wonderful would that be? 🥰

Another thought provoking buddy read with DeAnn!
Be sure to check out her wonderful review, as well!!
Profile Image for Kaceey.
1,070 reviews3,614 followers
January 21, 2021
I could give you A Million Reasons Why this didn’t work for me but I’d rather keep this review short and sweet.

A simple DNA test just for fun. Then the results came back. Caroline and her family are positively stunned by what they discover. Results show she has a half-sister that no one wants to acknowledge. But Caroline must know the truth and is determined to reach out.

Coincidentally, Sela had her own reasons for submitting a DNA test. One that should she find blood relatives may save her life. You see, Sela needs a kidney!

I’m all about suspending believability for a good read. But wow, this was just asking too much. As an RN maybe my medical knowledge worked against me but the behavior and actions of the transplant team and everyone else involved just put me over the edge.

I’ve enjoyed books by this author in the past and will once again be reaching for her next. Hoping this was just an exception to the rule.

A buddy read with Susanne that left us both disappointed.

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press
Profile Image for Sheyla ✎.
1,820 reviews479 followers
April 10, 2021
A Million Reasons Why was a sad story but a believable one.

With the help of a DNA kit, Sela is able to locate her half-sibling, Caroline. Sela is in need of help. She has chronic kidney failure. She feels tired, unable to do much exercise and sometimes feels like she can't take care of her child. Her best friend and her ex-husband are pushing her to do the Big Ask. To ask her half-sibling whom she has never met for a kidney. Sela feels conflicted but she also wants to live.

Caroline had no clue that her husband's Christmas gift to her family was going to be the one responsible for creating chaos. Caroline's world implodes when Sela's email arrives. She is shocked, to say the least. She can't believe that one of her parents was not faithful. It shocks her to her core. Worse, she and Sela are almost the same age.

Sela's email also opens old wounds for Caroline. Sela lives in the town Caroline thought about moving to with her boyfriend, Keaton many years ago. When a job doesn't pan out, Keaton breaks her heart without a good explanation. Yes, she is now married to Walter, she has three children and Walt is attentive, sweet and a great dad but Caroline still thinks about what it could have been.

The road for Sela and Caroline is not an easy one. So many secrets affecting them all. Some are hard to forget and to forgive but can they find a way to do so?

A Million Reasons Why was a well-written and well-developed novel. I was rooting for both sisters to find a way to each other and also I really wanted Sela to get a new kidney. At times, I felt like Caroline had it all and Sela was due for something good to happen to her. I was not happy with the decisions taken by Caroline's parents but I guess, it works in the end.

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

A complimentary copy was provided by St. Martin's Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

MrsLeif's Two Fangs About It | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
March 24, 2021
2.5 stars. Couldn’t buy into it.

Caroline’s husband purchases DNA testing kits for the extended family as a Christmas present. They are shocked by the results which lead to the unraveling of several long hidden family secrets.

This is a thought-provoking read that will ask you many tough questions. I enjoyed being challenged in my thinking and putting myself in the characters shoes to analyze my thoughts and feelings. I learned a lot about chronic kidney disease which I thought the author did a respectful and informative job presenting.

Unfortunately, right from the start I had believability issues with the plot and my doubts continued throughout. I liked the idea of the story but the execution didn’t work for me. I just couldn’t buy into it and much of it felt predictable. The dialogue and characters actions didn’t ring true to me which prevented me from feeling invested and engaged. I felt there was some unnecessary plot detail which made the novel drag at times. This family had so many buried secrets that it became far too dramatic, especially near the end. Overall, it was just too much for me. This is my first book by this author. I have a couple of her other books on my shelves that I’d like to try out to see if perhaps this was a one-off. Please read the many raving reviews, as I know I’m the outlier on this one.

Thank you to St Martins Press and NetGalley for my review copy!
Profile Image for Debra .
2,296 reviews35k followers
March 22, 2021
DNA tests in books seem to be all the rage and I get it, with all the sites where you can send in a swab to discover or learn more about your ancestry, which countries you are from, etc. DNA tests can bring people together, even help you find a sibling you did not know you had!

Caroline is married with three children. She is close with her parents and in-laws.

Sela is divorced and suffering from Kidney failure. Her mother has passed away and while she is still grieving, she needs to find a donor. She has learned that Caroline is her half-sister....

What would you do if you learned you have a sibling close to your age? What if you learned that your parents are not perfect? Will you image of them change? What would you risk for someone you just met? What would you do if you were either woman? How would you feel if your world were turned upside down? What makes a family? What sacrifices are you willing to make for your family?

There are quite a few surprises in this book. Also, a lot of "what's as in what would you do or what- ifs?” Also, plenty of secrets and denial to keep piling on the drama - and there is a lot of family drama! As you know there is no drama like family drama. This book gives new meaning to the term "save that drama for your mamma." As the secrets come out, characters in this book must take a long hard look at themselves, those he/she loves, and things he/she thought was the truth and examine his/her life choices. Who will you root for? Will you feel for each character or just certain ones?

You will also learn some about kidney donations, asking for help, not wanting help, and the stain of stress on individuals. Organ donation, we are asked if we want to be organ donors when we get a driver’s license, that is an easy yes or no and something that will happen in the event of death. But ask yourself, would you donate an organ now, today, to a family member? Would you donate an organ to a stranger? That is a BIG decision. This part was very thought provoking for me.

There are a lot of themes in this book - love, marriage, infidelity, missed opportunities, loneliness, chronic disease, regret, secrets, deception, motherhood, friendship, choices, and family. I was all over the place on how I felt about certain characters while reading this. This would make a really good book club book as there is a lot to discuss.

I found this to be an enjoyable thought-provoking book.

Thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Read more of my reviews at www.openbookposts.com
Profile Image for Katie B.
1,294 reviews2,964 followers
July 10, 2020
What I loved most about this book is there's so much going on in the story that you can't help but ask yourself, what would I do if I was this character? How would I handle this situation? So many dilemmas to ponder which made for an intriguing read.

Caroline is married with three young children. After submitting her DNA sample to an ancestry site, she is caught off guard when a woman named Sela contacts her claiming they are half-sisters. So, that bombshell rocks Caroline's world. Sela also has something else she is debating about telling Caroline. You see, Sela needs a kidney transplant and because they are related, Caroline might very well be a match. Not really the easiest favor to ask of someone you barely know, right? The story alternates between the perspectives of Caroline and Sela.

This certainly is a story full of dilemmas. Every character in the book, not just Caroline and Sela, are faced with really tough decisions. This book would be great for a book club discussion because there is so much to debate and maybe even judge regarding actions of the different characters.

It's always challenging to write a review when the bulk of what you want to write about is basically spoiler territory. I will keep my mouth shut and just say if the premise sounds interesting to you, definitely check this book out. There is also so much more to the story than you might expect which is an added bonus.

Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for providing me with an advance digital copy in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for Susanne.
1,159 reviews36.8k followers
November 8, 2020
*Outlier Alert!*

A Domestic Drama with more twists and turns than the Indy 500!

When a mail-in DNA test reveals that Caroline has a half sibling, she and the rest of her family are left reeling. While Caroline is curious about her half sister, no one else in her family wants to meet her.

For Sela, the results of the DNA test give her hope, for she is in kidney failure and desperately needs a donor. Following a separation from her husband and the premature birth of her son, Sela is scared.

When the lives of these two women become enmeshed, their lives as well as the lives of everyone around them will be altered forever. As it turns out, nothing is as it seems.

Upon finishing this novel, my first thought was that the author threw in everything but the kitchen sink: Tricks wrapped in Secrets, wrapped in Lies, leaving no one unscathed and then I thought of the title of this book: “A Million Reasons Why” and in the end, that summed it up perfectly for me. I found this book to be completely and wholly implausible because of how far-fetched it was and therefore, found A Million Reasons Why it wasn’t for me.

To date I have read all of Jessica Strawser’s novels and really liked both “Almost Missed You” and “Not That I Could Tell.” While this book wasn’t my favorite I look forward to seeing what this author comes out with next.

This was a buddy read with Kaceey!

Thank you to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press and Jessica Strawser for the arc.

Published on NetGalley and Goodreads on 11.8.20.
Profile Image for Terrie  Robinson.
398 reviews589 followers
September 11, 2022
"A Million Reasons Why" by Jessica Strawser is Women's Fiction with touches of Suspense!

When results from a DNA test and secrets from her parents past are brought to light, it causes everything Caroline thought she knew about her family to shift. For Sela, the half-sister Caroline never knew existed, it means hope for a life that would stop tumbling down around her.

As these two strangers learn what it means to become sisters, there is a tight-rope of fear and mistrust that lingers between them. Will well-meaning friends and family, attempting to protect them, hinder their relationship, or will their own secrets from the past cause a break before their bonding has a chance to begin?

This is the second book I've read by this author and I found it to be just as immersive as The Next Thing You Know. This author writes Women's Fiction the way I enjoy reading it, with deep emotion, passion, and a hint of suspense sprinkled in that gives occasional twists through the story.

The backstories of this family's journey are compelling with alternating highs and lows between the two main characters. When the twists surface, they feel unexpected and hit at just the right times to keep you reading, wondering, and wanting more. They also add depth to both the characters and the story overall.

I listened to the audiobook with two narrators, Cassandra Campbell and Natalie Naudus, which lends a unique voice to each of the two main characters. The voicing from both narrators' is top notch.

I highly recommend this book, and author, to readers who enjoy Women's Fiction with a little something extra in the writing. I ordered her debut novel Almost Missed You and thought I'd try a print copy, rather than an audiobook, this time to compare the two formats. Can't wait!
Profile Image for Melissa (Catch Up Mode).
4,574 reviews1,882 followers
November 2, 2021
I found this to be just an okay read. The premise is intriguing, especially because a member of my family has just been "found" through a DNA test, she donated eggs 20 years ago and has been contacted by a biological child that resulted from that donation. Since this was fresh in my mind, I was drawn to the story.

While overall, it was decently intriguing to see the family dynamics and interplay of how the news affects everyone involved, I thought that the drama was so amazingly drawn out and got a bit irritating after a while. The inner musing and pondering and debating just got tedious.

I didn't really connect with any of the characters either. I thought that Caroline was holding onto what happened in the past way too tightly, and if shouldn't have affected her life so much. And I thought the twist involving Sela was odd.

I like this author and think that she comes up with some fascinating premises for her books, so I will continue to read them and see what she comes up with. This wasn't a bad read, but it was so much longer than it needed to be for the story to play out.

I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book, all opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Theresa Alan.
Author 10 books1,019 followers
July 14, 2020
I was so excited to read another Strawser novel that this skipped the line in front of books that are coming out earlier. And she delivered. Though this is women’s fiction, there are also tantalizing mysteries within.

Caroline gets an email from a woman claiming to be her half-sister. Caroline had done genetic testing for her family on a lark—she will learn that Sela’s motivations were very different.

The email sets off a reaction in which Caroline learns painful truths about her past at the same time Sela is battling kidney disease. Caroline has a husband and three kids and parents that until recently she got along with. None of them is excited for Caroline, who grew up as an only child, to meet her sister. But meeting turns out to be a good thing for both women.

Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to review this novel, which RELEASES MARCH 23, 2021.
Profile Image for Melissa.
647 reviews28.6k followers
April 14, 2021
“Some opinions, you keep to yourself when someone you love is involved. Kind lies.”

There may not have been *a million reasons why* I was eager to get my hands on this book or even a few. There was one simple truth, Jessica Strawser pens compelling fiction. Making her newest release a highly anticipated read and an effortless grab after a months-long reading hiatus. Hello, new motherhood.

Unfortunately, my experience with this novel served as yet another reminder that picking up a favorite author’s newest work and finding greatness is never a foregone conclusion.

The entire framework of A Million Reasons Why is shared within the front flap of the novel’s dust jacket, so none of what I’m about to share can be construed as a spoiler. The experience is more about the emotionality the author attempts to sell along the way, rather than the often predictable happenings fed by the nature of the storyline itself and the overly generous synopsis. Or a character study, if you will.

Within the pages of this novel lives two women with vastly different lives. Strangers brought together by the results of a mail-in DNA test and one very important who. Caroline and Sela are half-sisters, a product of their father’s long-ago infidelity.

For Caroline, the harmless gift idea her husband came up with for her close-knit family brings forth jarring revelations. Opening her eyes not only to the reality of her parent’s seemingly perfect relationship but also her own. Sparking an immature revisit of what might have been.

Sela, on the other hand, growing up without a father, now motherless, recently divorced, and battling kidney failure, views the test as little more than a way to appease those urging her to do the “big ask” and possibly identify a donor.

What neither Caroline nor Sela foresees is their ability to embrace sisterhood so easily. Yet, the storyline isn’t without flaws.

Overly wordy and internal dialogue-centric makes for tedious page-turning. An existence that feels like little more than a page suck at times, given some of Caroline and Sela's incessant musings and rehashing of the past never evolve into anything of importance. Absent from the pages, the one relationship that should have garnered significant page time, that of Caroline and Sela's mothers.

The biggest downfall by a long shot, the jarring revelation. I wholeheartedly agree, this slow-moving character study needed a bold moment to break up the monotony. However, what transpires feels like one step too far in the wrong direction. Borderline cringeworthy even.

Overall, I found Strawser’s fourth novel to be predictable women’s fiction punctuated with a regrettable twist.

*Thank you to St. Martin's Press for gifting a copy in exchange for the honest thoughts I shared here.
Profile Image for Jessica Strawser.
Author 7 books1,365 followers
June 24, 2020
I poured my heart into this next book, a story of half-sisters linked through a DNA test and swept into a tangle of moral dilemmas. It's a bit of a shift for me, and a long time coming. I hope these characters will speak to all of you the way they've spoken to me.
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,128 reviews30.3k followers
November 19, 2021
I’m grateful I’ve had some time to catch up on books I’ve really been wanting to read, like this one from Jessica Strasser that published back in March. I’ve read all of Strawser’s books and am already eager for her newest, The Next Thing You Know, arriving in 2022.

If you haven’t tried her books yet, I would categorize them as suspenseful contemporary with a side of juicy and tense drama.

A Million Reasons Why is about two strangers who take a mail-in DNA test that links them. They find out they are sisters. One is thrilled; the other’s world is completely rocked. Like it or not, they are now sisters and have to decide what that means together.

One sister, Caroline, is living the perfect, happy life with her family, while Sela is seeking a donor match due to advanced kidney disease. Her life and her son’s livelihood depend on her finding a match. You can probably see where this is going with two sisters finding one another; but the road they take after they find each other is uncharted and surprising.

Overall, A Million Reasons Why is an emotional and thought-provoking story of what makes a family, secrets, motherhood, and ultimately, perhaps, (hopefully) forgiveness.

I received a gifted copy.

Many of my reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com and instagram: www.instagram.com/tarheelreader
Profile Image for Bridgett.
Author 20 books426 followers
January 31, 2021
What if....?

What if I found out my dad had an affair while my mom was pregnant with me?
What if I found out I had a half-sister as a result?
What if I I found out my only sibling was dying from end-stage kidney failure?
What if I found out I was a match and could donate a kidney to save her life?

Ultimately, A Million Reasons Why, is a book of "what ifs," and while it's vaguely intriguing (and a lot thought-provoking), I also found the internal dialogue a little too long-winded and philosophical. Add to that the completely unprofessional behavior of the renal nurses, which is not only implausible, but would also result in employment termination...and I ultimately found this novel to be average, at best.

The whole story involving Keaton seemed unnecessary, and frankly, a little unbelievable (what are the chances Caroline would choose to live in the one American town where her unknown half-sister lived?)

I would probably only recommend this book if you literally have nothing else to read.

2.5 stars
Available March 23, 2021

My sincere thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for my review copy.
Profile Image for DeAnn.
1,317 reviews
March 23, 2021
4 Thought-provoking stars

DNA testing has created such a rich source of ideas for novels. Crimes have been solved using the results, families have been torn apart as true parentage comes out, others have been surprised about ethnic backgrounds they didn’t know about.

In this contemporary fiction tale, Caroline is shocked to get an email about a potential half-sibling. She’s got a wonderful marriage and three young children. Is there room for the sister she never knew she had? What other secrets will be coming out? Does her father know that he has another child?

Sela’s life is a different story, recently separated and almost divorced, she’s lost her mother recently too. There’s a bigger reason for her reaching out to Caroline though, she’s in very poor health and needs a donor kidney and family often leads to a higher chance for a match. Sela will do anything to stay in her son Brody’s life.

As Caroline and Sela navigate a path together, their family and friends struggle with the news. The path is a rocky one and I learned quite a bit about kidney donation along the way. What would you do for family? A stranger? Would you give up a part of your body if you could make a huge difference for someone else, extend their life by years? Could you make the “big ask” of your family members?

Although this is contemporary fiction, there were definitely a few surprises at the end that I did not anticipate but made for a great story! I loved reading about altruistic donors who donate a kidney just to do the right thing. It made me think about if I could ever do something like that.

This was another terrific buddy read with Jayme and we both think it would make a great book club book.

Thank you to St. Martin's Press for the early copy of this one to read through NetGalley.
Profile Image for Chelsey (a_novel_idea11).
447 reviews135 followers
March 24, 2021
I always love a good family drama and I'm generally drawn to medical dramas, so when I read the synopsis for A Million Reasons Why and saw that it had BOTH of these elements, I knew it was sure to be a hit for me!! And let me tell you, it did not disappoint.

Caroline is a mother to three young kids, wife to an empathetic and supportive husband, and a successful career woman. When her husband Walt gifts the entire family DNA Ancestry kits for Christmas, she's on board thinking it could be fun to learn a bit about their history. What she didn't expect was a message from an alleged half sister, suggesting that her doting and wonderful father wasn't exactly the husband and family man she had believed him to be.

Sela is a woman in her mid-thirties suffering from kidney failure. When she was pregnant with Brody, her kidneys started to fail and led to Brody being born prematurely and Sela's kidneys failing at a rapid rate. Determined to live past Brody's second birthday, Sela decides to do a DNA Ancestry test and see if there's any extended family with whom she can connect to identify a possible donor. Never knowing her father, she knew it was a possibility. When a match for a half sister pops up, Sela knows she needs to reach out and make "the big ask."

But asking a stranger is one thing, asking a family another. But what position does it put her in to ask a stranger that is family?

As Sela struggles to come to terms with needing to ask for the biggest favor / sacrifice from a woman with whom she's trying to develop a relationship, Caroline is grappling her own problems. Her mother and father are in denial about Sela and have decided to pretend she doesn't exist, leaving Caroline to deal with the consequences of her father's affair on her own.

Dredging up the past ends up being a dangerous game for them all. Not only are relationships at risk, but even Sela's life hangs in the balance.

Told from Sela's and Caroline's viewpoints, it was easy to get completely absorbed in Caroline's family drama and Sela's plight to find a donor. I thought Strawser did an incredible job with the character development and I could really feel Sela's inner turmoil over having to not only broach her illness with her newly found sibling, but also ask her to be tested as a donor. I could also empathize with Caroline who was struggling with the aftermath of finding out she wasn't an only child and discovering that much of her life had been a lie manufactured by her parents.

This was an emotional and gut wrenching story. It shed a lot of light on the donor and recipient process and felt well researched and authentic. The relationships were unique and occasionally felt odd, but they really worked well for the storyline. I also loved that there were related side plots scattered throughout the book - for example, Caroline's ex-boyfriend Keaton and Sela's relationship with her "ex" husband. It added layers to the story that helped deepen my connection to the characters and understand their decision making more.

This was a five star read all the way through for me. However, I had to drop off a star for the very end. The epilogue included a piece to the story that felt implausible and honestly, completely unnecessary. It really did end up taking away from the feeling of the story for me, so it was enough to make this end up a four star read.

Definitely still one I would highly recommend and I am excited to read more of Strawser's work and more novels about the donor/recipient process (I was particularly intrigued by donor swaps and would love to read a book with that in the plot line!!).

Thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for a copy of this wonderful novel.
Profile Image for ScrappyMags.
597 reviews248 followers
March 21, 2021
What lengths do you go for love and forgiveness?

Shortest Summary Ever: Caroline and her hubby live a cozy family life that’s suddenly upended when they learn through mail-in DNA testing that she has a half sister. That’s right - dad was messing around... with her mom’s bestie.

Sela, half-sister, suffers from chronic kidney disease, her husband left her during the worst moments of her life, and to top it off her beloved mother passed away. Life has been dark, but Caroline could offer a light if she’s a viable donor match. How do you ask for something from someone who is a stranger? Or DO you ask? There’s no simple answer to difficult questions. So many complications... so many turns in this tale.

Thoughts: This book is so much about themes of love (in many forms) and forgiveness (in equally as many forms). I feel like a better person having read this. I never suspected love and forgiveness could be so layered, so many shades of gray, but this book reveals those shades like the dawning of a new day. The colors change depending on your view. The colors transformed so many times for me from hope to sadness to light and love and family to devastating shock and loneliness.

On a personal note, this book touched a huge chord for me as I have lived with chronic illnesses for 8 years - 5 physical ones to be exact. While Sela’s journey and disease is not my own, the commonalities are endless. I am handling mine alone and have handled it (with help from loved ones), but ultimately as many chronic illness warriors know, we all travel our journey solo. There truly isn’t an alternative. I have thought dark thoughts. I have had some moments of pure light... but yep - shades of gray consume my every day. The only people who “get it” are those who have walked the road and know.

Bravo to the author for NAILING it.

All my reviews available at scrappymags.com around time of publication.

Genre: Contemporary Literature/Women’s fiction (though honestly I don’t see it as “chic-lit!!)

Recommend to: Its a best-seller type, reminded me a bit of Jodi Picoult, and I highly, highly recommend this to all my chronic illness warrior peeps! 💜💚💜💚💜

Not recommended to: If the topic of being a donor is too raw.

Thank you to the author, NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for my advanced copy in exchange for my always-honest review and for making me feel heard. Simply heard.
Profile Image for Carrie.
3,162 reviews1,519 followers
July 4, 2021
I have read several books by Jessica Strawser and enjoyed them so when I saw A Million Reasons Why I knew that I just had to pick it up. Jessica Strawser’s novels are all marketed as thrillers but with this latest I almost felt as if it were more of a family drama with just a touch of thriller.

The story introduces readers to Caroline, a wife and mother of three children. Caroline is about to have her world turned upside down when she gets the results of a simple DNA test. Somehow the results show that Caroline has a half sister that she knew nothing about, how, why??

On the other side of that DNA result sits Sela who is in the process of fighting for her life. Given a grim diagnosis Sela needs to find a match to give her any hope of survival so she submitted her DNA but now that she may have found someone Sela doesn’t know if she could possibly as for help.

While I wasn’t sure while I was reading this one if I’d really have called it a thriller myself it did have some twists along the way. The story was one that was very thought provoking too making it very compelling to continue to read to find out how it would turn out for these characters. I have known people who have found unknown relatives so I know it’s not uncommon but I couldn’t help but be curious about this particular fictional situation and feel for all of the characters as they navigated a tough situation.

I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

For more reviews please visit https://carriesbookreviews.com/
Profile Image for Erin Clemence.
1,056 reviews311 followers
July 15, 2020
Special thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free, electronic ARC of this novel received in exchange for an honest review.

Expected publication date: March 23, 2021

Jessica Strawser is back with “A Million Reasons Why”. Hot on the heels of “Forget You Know Me”, Strawser again tackles relationships and the huge life-changing events that can alter their course.

As a Christmas gift, Caroline’s husband, Walt, gives her an ancestry tracking kit, along with Caroline’s parents, partly as a joke. The results come back with a shocking result- Caroline has a half-sister that she never knew about. When she confronts her parents, old secrets come out and she is both hurt and shocked that a sister she could have had has been kept from her. Sela is a young mother, diagnosed with kidney disease, her only shot of complete remission is a kidney transplant. Sela’s ex-husband hoped that the ancestry kit would reveal a connection to family Sela did not know she had, family that could be Sela’s last hope at a kidney. However, when Sela finds out about Caroline, and the two agree to meet, Sela realizes she cannot ask this favour from her new sister. As Sela’s health worsens, Caroline continues to find out more and more secrets, about her mother, her father and even her new sister. Will Sela get over her pride and make the “big ask” of the sister she just met? Will Caroline be able to make such a sacrifice, knowing the secrets of her family’s past?

“Million Reasons” is full of family drama and has a lot of “what if?” thought-provoking moments. The novel left me thinking about mortality, sickness, and family, and questioning my own decisions if faced with a similar choice.

Both Caroline and Sela are savvy and strong, and the struggles they face are real and tragic. The novel has an interesting twist (that I won’t give away) , which I can honestly say took me by surprise. Each chapter is alternately narrated, by Caroline and Sela, so the reader can understand both protagonists’ roles.

I found this novel spent a lot of time building up to the action, with a huge focus on character development and history. Although it helped in the end, I would’ve liked to have a bit more drama scattered throughout. I was invested enough in both characters, however, to want to find out how it ends.

“A Million Reasons Why” is creative and heart-tugging, and will definitely leave a mark. Strawser tackles family issues from an honest and upfront perspective, which adds a nice level of realism and believability in her plots, and this book is no different. A well-planned and researched novel, “Million Reasons” is definitely worth checking out!
Profile Image for Bkwmlee.
385 reviews254 followers
March 9, 2021
3.5 stars

In her fourth novel, author Jessica Strawser takes on the recently trend of mail-in DNA tests, which, in this story, becomes the catalyst that brings together two half-sisters who previously didn’t know each other existed. Caroline lives a happy but busy life with her husband and three kids as well as an extended family of parents and in-laws who dote on her. One year for Christmas, her husband Walt jokingly buys the entire family DNA test kits as gifts — not thinking anything of it, Caroline submits her test and is shocked to find out that she actually has a half-sister, born of the same father. Sela is an artist who lives a less-than-happy existence — in the face of a devastating health diagnosis a few years ago that caused her son to be born premature and her marriage to crumble under the constant stress of their situation, Sela also must grieve the death of her mother (who was also her best friend and fiercest supporter). In an act of desperation when her illness progresses to the point that it requires her to get a kidney transplant in order to live, Sela is driven to reach out to her long-lost half-sister Caroline for help. Suddenly, Caroline’s perfect life is upended as one secret after another comes to light, leading her to question what she thought she knew about her family.

Having read Jessica Strawser’s three previous works in addition to this one, I have to say that I still like her debut ( Almost Missed You ) the most. While all her novels so far have been enjoyable and engaging to the point that, at the moment I pick them up, they keep me wanting to continue reading — however, for some reason, her novels lack the memorability factor in that neither the stories nor the characters stay with me for long. With that said, I did end up liking this book — her fourth novel and newest release — more than her previous two, mostly because I felt there was a depth to her characters this time around that I didn’t really see with her other works. I like the way Strawser presented the relationship between Caroline and Sela — half-sisters who can’t help being drawn to each other, yet at the same time, understanding the precarious nature of what they have. I feel like the portrayal of their relationship — the various nuances that existed and the challenges that needed to be overcome — was the strongest aspect of the entire story. I mention this because the story overall was the “slow burn” type where I felt like some parts of the plot dragged a bit. Also, some sections of dialogue — specifically some of the scenes where the characters “reminisce” about the past — seemed unnecessary to me and bogged down the story rather than moved it along. In addition, I did feel that some parts of the plot were a bit melodramatic, especially as it pertained to Sela and her situation, but that might just be me.

I also continue to have the same issue with this book that I had with Strawser’s previous two books — namely that they are being categorized as “suspense” or “thriller” when in reality, they should go more appropriately into the contemporary fiction category. The main reason is that I feel like the story as written lacks the suspenseful atmosphere that I expect from works in the genre. With this book in particular— while there were indeed a few “surprise” elements in the story, none of them were “jaw-dropping twists” that brought me to the edge of my seat or elicited a strong reaction from me in the vein of what I would feel reading an actual suspense / thriller novel.

A few issues notwithstanding, this was still a good story overall and I continue to look forward to Strawser’s next novel.

Received ARC from St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley.
Profile Image for Kat.
Author 8 books353 followers
October 25, 2021
Caroline is shocked when the mail-in DNA test she takes reveals that she has a half-sister she never knew existed. She has a husband and three young kids. Her half-sister Sela’s life has gone very differently, as she’s very sick with kidney failure and needs a transplant—her reason for seeking out her father’s side of the family in hopes of finding a match. But when news of Sela’s existence hits Caroline’s family, as well as the reason she sought them out, the shock waves are catastrophic.

This was an interesting story that had lots of heartbreaking angles. Some of the infidelity angles were written in an interesting way, though I didn’t sympathize so much with the excuses people made for cheating or having a wandering eye—in either the past or present-day timeline. I found the conflict surrounding chronic illness and organ donation to be well written, as well as the examination of how hard it is on both the person going through it and their family. A little long in places, but overall a compelling story.
Profile Image for The Girl with the Sagittarius Tattoo.
2,132 reviews267 followers
April 1, 2021
It has been a reaaaallly long time since a plot disappointed me this much, and so needlessly.

The first 90% of this story was fan-freaking-tastic, filled with high family drama. Caroline decides to submit her DNA for the fun of finding out more about the family's roots. When the results come back with an unknown half sister, Caroline is sure the test must be wrong. Her parents have lived a fairytale marriage since before she was born! After the lab verifies its results, a little further digging exposes ugly truths about the parents she thought she knew.

Meanwhile, Sela is suffering from kidney failure and if she doesn't find a matching donor soon, her 2yo son Brodie will be without a mother. In desperation, she submits her DNA to the same website in the hopes of finding distant relatives who have the potential to save her. Instead, she finds a whole new branch of the family - and a whole lot of underserved resentment.

This book was so, so good and juicy: backstabbing, betrayals, hushed-up affairs, concealed children, hidden diseases... and not all of it came from expected quarters! All the trouble from discovering Sela's existence is just the tip of the iceberg. So much fun... but then the author RUINS EVERYTHING by taking it just a step too far around the 90% mark. There is a reveal so ludicrous, so lame, so completely aggravating that if I'd had a pen-and-ink book I would have thrown it across the room!!!! Ugh, I was SO disgusted by such an unnecessary and stupid twist. WHY?!?

If you want to see what all the anguish is about, go ahead and read it. If I was you I'd skip this one altogether - but up until it jumped the shark, I was thinking this would make for a terrific book club novel. Lots of great family drama fodder to discuss.
Profile Image for Mary Jackson _TheMaryReader.
1,109 reviews131 followers
January 30, 2021
This was such a good book. I guess the fact that I am going through some of the same things DNA test found half siblings and also have kidney disease no living parents, the story really hit home I to lost my only child be it that she was much older. This story just really touched me to the core.
It is a must read and 5 stars is just not enough. I HIGHLY recommend this book.
The Mary Reader received this book from the publisher for review. A favorable review was not required and all views expressed are our own.
Profile Image for Lisa.
624 reviews237 followers
February 24, 2021
An Emotional Roller Coaster of a Ride


When two strangers are linked by a DNA test, it’s an answer to a prayer for one woman. For the other, it changes everything she knows about her family.

Caroline is happily married, a creative problem solver as an event director and the mother of three kids in the single digit range. Her extended family is extremely close and celebrates everything together. Caroline’s life is good, but now, somehow...she has a half-sister.

Sela is fragile and suffering from irreversible kidney failure. Her marriage has crumbled in the wake of her illness and her mother, who she was close to, had recently passed away. She refuses to be defined by her grief, but still, she worries what will happen to Brody, her two-year-old son if she doesn’t find a donor match in time.

Caroline might be Sela’s only hope for a future. But can Caroline afford the risk?

A Million Reasons Why is a heartbreaking story that will draw you in like a moth to a flame. It’s a labyrinth of secrets and lies making you rethink what it means to be family. Caroline and Sela’s characters are both well-developed and creatively intertwined.

Jessica Strawser’s wiring is poignant. She effortlessly makes you feel the drama and pain that envelopes both Caroline and Selena’s characters. It’s an emotional roller coaster of a ride, leaving you with an exhilarating feeling at the end.

The dilemmas in the story would be a treasure for book clubs. There is much to think about here. Jessica Strawser is the author of several novels including Almost Missed You (2017), Not That I Could Tell (2018) and Forget You Know Me (2019).

Thanks to Netgalley for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Lindsey Gandhi.
525 reviews149 followers
April 17, 2022
I think a sign of a good book is when it really gets you thinking "what if". What would I do if this were my life, my story, my drama. While this book is a heavy book, in my opinion... it is definitely a thought provoking book. I really appreciated the time and care the author goes into explaining the process of organ donation on both the donor and recipient side. She also does an exceptional job in delicately conveying the pains, struggles, fears and concerns a person living with a chronic disease has.

There are multiple themes and layers to the story from love, family, sibling relationships, infidelity, deceit, forgiveness, friendship, mental illness and second chances to name just a few. Caroline's family is all given DNA tests one year for Christmas. Little did they know the pandora's box that would open from those test. A Million Reasons Why takes you on an emotional journey into that pandora's box and how the family deals with it. Some of it good, some of it bad. Some of it loving, some of it painful. But at the end you have a beautiful story with some aspects you won't see coming.

I think this would make an excellent book club pick as there is so much depth and substance to explore and discuss.

My thanks to the author, St. Martin's Press and netgalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Kristy.
1,027 reviews143 followers
March 8, 2021
A thought-provoking read about types of family

Caroline does a DNA test on a whim--as do her parents--as part of a Christmas gift. Little does she expect the results she receives: she has a half sister she had no idea about. As for that half-sister, Sela, she does the test looking for family. Now that her mother has passed away, Sela wants to know more--and her friends and husband, from whom she's separated--want her to find a possible donor. Because Sela suffers from chronic kidney disease, and she's going through the stages, fast. The test results overwhelm Caroline's once perfect family, angering and estranging her parents, and putting distance between her and her husband, Walt. But she reaches out to Sela nonetheless, finding surprising comfort in her newfound sister. Sela's life revolves around her two-year-old son, but she could see herself making room for Caroline. And Caroline suddenly finds herself with a new definition of family. What does it all mean--and will Sela live long enough for the two to get to know one another?

"This simply could not be true. It would mean Dad had somehow fathered another woman's child while he was a newlywed."

This was a really interesting, dramatic book that made me think-- a lot. I found it stressful at times, as I was worried for Sela and her health, worried about the burden Caroline was taking on, and more. I suppose it's the sign of a good read if the book creates tension and makes you feel for the characters.

"Caroline couldn't deflect the feeling that a stray cat had been let out of a bag that may or may not have been delivered by mistake."

This was a little slow at times--it rehashes things a bit much, with Caroline waffling over whether she wants to get to know Sela and Sela waffling over whether she wants Caroline her life. We go over and over about Caroline and Walt's relationship and more. There's a lot of drama. The theatrics between the sisters made sense (and honestly, they were the most likeable characters in the book), but the parents were insane at times. I won't go into it too much due to spoilers, but Caroline's parents were very hard to like, making ridiculous demands, and even her husband, who was attempting to be "protective," was a bit much.

Still, this book made me ponder a lot about "found" family and organ donation. It's emotional and sad. Some parts were a little over the top, but I found it intriguing and thoughtful. 3.5 stars.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley and St. Martin's Press in return for an unbiased review.

Blog ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram ~ PaperBackSwap ~ Smashbomb
Profile Image for Darla.
3,356 reviews529 followers
March 14, 2021
A domestic drama with a slow burn and satisfying ending. The thrilling aspects of this new title may not be what you expect. Rather than being rich in adrenaline, the narrative intimately probes the what- ifs and why-didn't-we moments a family must confront. The story is told from the viewpoints of two women: Caroline and Sela. A mail-in DNA test matches them up as half sisters. That is just the beginning. Even though Caroline and Sela have small relatively few living relatives, the shockwaves reverberate far and wide. Interwoven with the DNA dilemma are other issues like organ donation, parenting style, marriage, and motherhood. I found this book reminding me of Jodi Picoult's early books like 'My Sister's Keeper.' Some more recent titles that came to mind were the nonfiction book 'Inheritance' by Dani Shapiro (a memoir about dealing with DNA results), 'The Perfect Son' by Lauren Nash (a mother deals with memory loss and grief), and 'The Half Sister' by Sandie Jones (a new sister with an agenda).

Thank you to St. Martin's Press and Edelweiss+ for a DRC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for John Gilbert.
870 reviews93 followers
February 12, 2023
My fourth book by Jessica Strawser, I really liked Not That I Could Really Tell, the other two not so much. Now there are three.

An ambitious book with a most interesting premise, two sisters discovering the existance of the other in their 30s via a DNA site, one seriously ill and needing a kidney donor. The premise was good, the delivery not. Lots of head talk by the sisters in alternating chapters, not enough dialogue in order to help the story along and actually get to know all the characters.

Having read Useful by Debra Oswald, she describes the process of donating a kidney better and with more heart than here. I also had a friend donate a kidney to his mother-in-law, so I a somewhat familiar with the topic. Here was more of a description of process rather than actually having the sisters interact. Caroline's three children only get a very brief look in, where they could have been so much more part of the story.

This one had its moments, but in the end did not really work as much as I would have liked. 2.5 stars.
Profile Image for Amy.
1,877 reviews1,879 followers
March 16, 2021
I’ve become such a fan of this author, she really has the kind of writing style that I enjoy and she creates these characters that are relatable and believable and this was no exception. I feel like DNA testing has been a hot topic in quite a few books lately, so I was slightly hesitant if she could bring something new to the table and I feel like she did. It was remarkably thought provoking and made me wonder what I would do if I was in either Caroline or Sela’s shoes.

This one was very twisty for a book that isn’t even remotely a thriller which gave the whole thing a suspenseful feel. Not that it was fast paced and tense necessarily, just that so many secrets kept coming out that you really didn’t know what would happen next. A family drama would be my best way of explaining what it was for me, with an emphasis on drama, it veered slightly into Lifetime movie territory but I actually love that vibe. Ultimately I loved the exploration of the usual family dynamics and found it to be an engrossing read.

Displaying 1 - 30 of 846 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.