June 21, 2017

Fresh from the Bookshelf: The Memory of You by Catherine West {Book Review}

The Memory of You by Catherine West ~ Book Review
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I was first introduced to author Catherine West when I reviewed her novel The Things We Knew last year. Because it was not my preferred genre of Christian fiction, I was reluctant to read it. I discovered however, a new-to-me author to the contemporary Christian fiction world who wasn't afraid to dive into deeper topics so relevant in today's world--her characters had baggage that far too many can relate to. Things that some authors choose not to incorporate in their stories in the Christian fiction genre--parents with dementia, divorce/separated characters, anxiety, and abuse to name a few. The book ended up being one of my top reads for the year--something that surprised me. I was recently sent her next novel The Memory of You to review for The Fiction Guild, and this time I was eager to see if she would continue in the style she wrote previously.

About The Memory of You

The Memory of You by Catherine West is a contemporary story set in the famous Sonoma Valley, CA, at a family owned winery. Natalie Mitchell is a top executive at her father's firm in NYC, but feels
like she is drowning under the pressure put on her by her father. Discovering that her beloved grandfather has had a heart attack, she returns to their family-owned winery--something she never ever intended to do. She's avoided the home and all its memories since the summer her sister died 13 years ago---the summer her nightmares began. She's going because of an ultimatum from her father--shut the struggling winery down! She's a majority shareholder and has the power to do so--and she never says no to her father...

Upon arrival, she discovers a boy from her past--Tanner Collins, who is now the vintner on Maoilios (the family winery) and he's determined to get the winery back up and running, even though they had a bad season. Natalie's arrival threatens his future and he's determined to convince her to do NOT close the business--but Natalie isn't the same girl he remembers. She wears a haunted look hinting at secrets he's ready to discover. All too soon, he discovers that the night her sister died, the real Natalie died too. Can he resurrect the real Natalie? Will Natalie drown in her secrets? Or can they find freedom in facing the past and save the winery too?

My Thoughts on this Book

Let me start by saying this is the FIRST time that I have read a book where the lead character has serious depression and anxiety requiring her to have therapy and medication. The author NORMALIZES it as being a legitimate health issue--something many in society today do NOT do. She really captures the depth of what depression can do to someone and I was holding my breath so many times as the waves of anxiety debilitated Natalie. Like many sufferers, she keeps her depression, therapy, and medication a secret for everyone sure that it will deem her weak or a failure. On top of the depression, the author captured the pressure that too many face from trying to please their parents at all costs and the final freedom they face when they are able to let go.

In the same book, the author deals with the illness of being bipolar as well and how it affects the family of the sufferer. We just don't see enough of this kind of topic being covered in entertainment and I appreciate the way the author tackles it--she doesn't whitewash it. Just faces it practically and head on showing all the nuances that are part of the mental illness.

Watching Natalie and Tanner navigate through their work and personal relationship was very believable. Each had personal doubts that prevented them from truly communicating with each other. The book really focuses on the themes of grace and forgiveness as each character finds their freedom from their burdens in the Lord.

The Memory of You earns 5★
I really don't have anything negative to say about The Memory of You. The story was rich, and the language was beautiful. You soared in the joy and cried in the collapses of the characters. The baggage the characters dealt with was real--I have friends who deal with much of the topics included in this story, from bipolar disorder and severe depression/anxiety to broken families and tragic loss. If you are looking for believable characters who are going through REAL life scenarios, I really suggest you explore Catherine West's novels The Memory of You and The Things We Knew. I happily give this book my rare 5 star rating!
by Catherine West
Available in paperback and Kindle
Catherine West has taught me a good lesson in judging a book by its cover, summary, and genre. Had I not been sent these books to review, I don't believe that I would have picked them off a shelf to read--I just don't read this style typically. And if I hadn't of read these, I would have missed out on some exceptional writing. 
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