... intense ... There is something so authentic about Jane, something so completely opposite of cunning, that it’s impossible not to feel for her even though you know she’s doing pretty much everything wrong ... The novel is structured around Jane’s and Lauren’s points of view, and through them, over a span of nearly 20 years, we get a vivid portrait of female coming-of-age. In the areas of growing awareness of one’s own sexuality, how social power is brokered, how belief systems are formed, Winter is a genius. The details of a back-of-the-school-bus encounter between a group of Lauren’s classmates around the year 1990 felt lifted from my own 1990 and I had to put the book down for a moment ... Alongside zoomed-in scenes like these, Winter finds subtle ways to remind the reader of the larger world ... I worry that all this talk of Catholicism and saints might put some readers off, but truly, this is a secular book, and Winter’s greatest accomplishment is that she takes on enormous, highly charged topics — faith, the right to choose, female identity — and presents a story without one shred of moralizing. I laughed aloud in places. Winter is very funny ... Like a writer in complete control of her talent, Winter trusts the reader to understand. Her restraint calls to mind the great Mavis Gallant, who also put a huge amount of trust in her reader (and was also darkly funny).
Alternating chapters between Jane and her daughter, Winter draws readers into depths of familial love that sometimes miss the mark, despite best intentions. She deftly depicts an all-too-human inconsistency: we may hold deep convictions until reality hits close to home. Every page is absorbing; book clubs will love discussing this.
Jane’s narration can be a bit slow and tedious, but the novel takes off when it switches to Lauren’s point of view, building tension as Lauren finds her way through a difficult situation. Though the novel feels a bit schematic at times, Winter’s surprisingly complex characters make it worthwhile.