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Sally and Olivia were inseparable at uni. In the years since they had drifted apart, something Olivia bitterly regretted. Her attempts at rekindling their friendship failed, so she has tried to get on with her life. Last Olivia knew was that Sally was married and living in New York with her new husband.
Then the unthinkable happened - Sally was killed in a car crash. Devastated, Olivia attends the funeral and during a conversation with Sally's husband William, he mentions how upset Sally had been that Olivia hadn't attended the wedding (Olivia believing that she wasn't invited) and the biggest shock of all was that their daughter's middle name was Olivia - named after her.
William then asks Olivia to spend some time with him and his daughter, so they can get to know the Sally she knew. Madeleine is still hostile towards Livvy, but a trip to the Natural History Museum with her sister Jules and nephew Nathaniel seems to thaw things somewhat, though Madeleine is still wary of Livvy. Jules's comment to Livvy about how she is picking up 'interested vibes' from William is initially scoffed at by Livvy, after all, his wife has just been buried. But what if Jules was right?
Sally's death seems to have shattered Olivia's life and she is left struggling to cope with all the changes that are going on in her life and her confusion and guilt that she has about her growing feelings for William. Olivia's one success is her job, but when she wins a pitch against her work rival, the success she should be feeling seems to have eluded her. To make matters worse, despite being engaged, her rival has begun to date her flatmate so she has no escape from her problems.
The main theme in this book is, understandably, grief and how to deal with the grief of not only the death of a loved one, but also the loss of any hopes that Livvy had of reviving her friendship with Sally. There are a few jumps between stories and it is sometimes hard to understand what is going on, but I did like this style of writing as it gave an extra depth and understanding of the thoughts and feelings of Olivia.
I did like the characterisation in this novel. There is a tendency to only think of, and to make a point of only talking about the positives of a person after death, but the author does give a balanced view of Sally and both her negative and positive qualities. Sally isn't some sort of Saint although it is clear that even after her death, her power and influence over her friends lives on.
My only real criticism of this book is that when what could have been the reason for Sally acting the way she had was finally revealed, it is brushed under the carpet in favour of the emerging relationship of the 2 main characters. I would have liked a bit more about the revelations and how these impacted Sally and if this was the reason why she acted how she did. There is also talk of an inquest and an investigation into whether Sally's death was really an accident and the results of this were never revealed. The ending seemed a bit rushed as well. For such a long, detailed book, the ending is a bit of a let down and it does feel as though the author has lost interest in the story.
I did enjoy this book and felt that the story was well written. The author deals with the issue of bereavement and grief really well and although this book could have become very morbid, the thread of hope that runs through it stops this from happening. The ending is slightly predictable, but the twists and turns through the book does make you want to read further and although it is a predictable ending, it's the only possible ending in my opinion.