Barefoot Season

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Author: Susan Mallery
ISBN: 978-192179542-8
RRP: $29.99

Barefoot Season was a book that took quite a while to reel me in, I couldn’t connect and it took me a while to work out why. The story was great and should have captured me from the very first page. My problem was I couldn’t picture the lead character and it distracted me every time I read her name for about the first 5 chapters. It’s not often I come across a heroine named Michelle and it took me a long time to get past that. The second I could stop thinking ME everytime I read Michelle I was hooked.

The novel starts with Michelle Sanderson buying a truck from a kid heading into the army. He’s an idealistic, fresh-faced young man totally clueless about what he’s getting himself into and this is where we learn that Michelle is a returned servicewoman just out of hospital after being injured in active duty. She is one of the lucky ones, and one day she may come to realise that.

Michelle is on her way home, back to the Blackberry Island Inn; the only place left for her to go. This is the place which kept her going through all the years she was away – but is it going to be anything like the place she left?

This book is a journey to wholeness, and not just for Michelle after her injury. Michelle’s war wound and it’s associated psychological baggage is a major focus. The crippled young vet returns home and we watch her sink further as she tries to survive it all on her own with just her stubborn streak for support. Part of that is her feeling that she is all alone, there is no-one that she can really turn to and definitely no-one who would understand.

Michelle’s struggle is not the only one for us to witness.

barefoot season

Carly grew up with Michelle, they were inseparable and the best of friends until some big secret betrayal tore them apart. There was a lot of talking around this issue. We heard parts of the story but it never really made sense. And Mallery addresses the fact that it makes no sense because the characters themselves admit that their reactions are unreasonable or illogical.

Carly has suffered through the years; trying to run from her high school persona and raising her daughter on her own. She has poured heart and soul into the Blackberry Island Inn after Michelle’s mother employed her when she was eight months pregnant and desperate.

Now Michelle’s back and everything has changed. Things were never quite what they seemed and these two former friends are going to have to work together if they want to keep the inn afloat – after Michelle works out where the missing money is going.

In the midst of the guilt, the betrayal and the animosity is the innocence of a pre-teen growing up and finding herself as she begins to face and overcome some of her fears.

From the beginning there are hints of the easy relationship that lay far FAR in the past of Carly and Michelle and part of their falling out is made public quite early one but the whole story remains elusive until closer to the end of the book. There were moments that I could feel myself cringe thinking about the disastrous outcome possible from a course of action but a lot of the time I was pleasantly surprised that the characters behaved totally differently.

There was a magical quality to Barefoot Season and the journey to healing for some of the characters, it was heartwarming and I couldn’t help but smile. Only rivalled by the amount of heart breaking moments that had me feeling the pain of these women who need nothing more than they need the friendship they shared through childhood.

Barefoot Season gave me a little bit of everything and I can’t fault that. There was a little bit of mystery, some romance, heartbreak, moments that made you go ‘awww’ and laughs. The wit was fabulous, so natural and easy. Beautifully capturing the way people who have known each other for a very long time sometimes interact.

Mallery’s characters are strong and independent but they also have some major vulnerabilities to offset that and I love them. Apparently this is the beginning of a new series and I for one will be eagerly anticipating the forthcoming books.

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