Author: Louise Shaffer
Release Date: March 24, 2009
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Curled Up With a Good Book
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Though Serendipity looks a bit like a historical fiction novel based solely on the cover, it is actually about a young woman named Carrie living in present-day New York City. Her mother, Rose, recently passed away, leaving Carrie feeling lost and bereft. Rose was an icon in New York, known both for being “theater royalty” – the granddaughter of Broadway legend Lu Lawson and wife of deceased Broadway playwright Bobby Manning – as well as for her amazing philanthropic work.
As Carrie remembered her, Rose disdained any displays of wealth. Rose firmly believed that she should live simply, though she had plenty of money from her husband’s trust. When Carrie was very young, Rose asked her to give all of her toys to the homeless children at the shelter they worked at as a mother-daughter team. Carrie’s life with Rose always centered on giving up everything in order to help the less fortunate.
However, when Carrie is going through Rose’s belongings after her death, she comes across some clues that make her wonder if she really knew Rose at all. Desperately seeking closure, Carrie begins to seek out family members that Rose forbade her from talking to in order to understand her mother’s traumatic past, and what happened to her that changed her and gave her all that guilt. In her quest to discover who Rose Manning was, Carrie uncovers certain truths about herself and comes to terms with her mother’s death.
Serendipity was a really great read about uncovering secrets buried in the past and understanding how they can affect the present day. The story is told in two time periods, which is an effective technique for a novel such as this. When Carrie is learning about her grandmother (Lu) and mother (Rose), the story jumps back in time. In this way, Shaffer shows the reader what happened, rather than simply telling them.
The characters in Serendipity are developed very well. Admittedly, Lu is a difficult character to like, but she is not difficult to understand. It’s easy to see why she makes the decisions she does, even though she seems selfish. That’s a difficult feat for an author to accomplish, and Shaffer does it well. Though Rose was extremely generous with her time and money, in some ways, she was just as selfish as Lu. And Carrie is just damaged by a lack of understanding. She can’t comprehend what prompted her mother to cut off all contact with her grandmother, what happened when her father died when Carrie was just three years old, and what changed her mother from what seemed like a fun loving girl into a somber woman who took no pleasure in anything except her philanthropy. It’s a wonderful mix of varying personalities, all of which are well-written and sympathetic.
Serendipity was a great read that I didn’t want to put down. The book is like a breath of fresh air: light, easy to read, and wonderfully written. I highly recommend it!