REVIEW: Dreams of Falling by Karen White

Book CoverStevie‘s review of Dreams of Falling by Karen White
Women’s Psychological Fiction published by Berkley 05 Jun 18

I love stories told through the eyes of different generations, as well as those where the action takes place in different time periods. So this mystery, while not quite the narrative I’d been expecting, had all the potential to be just my kind of thing.

Larkin Lanier left her home in South Carolina after a falling out with her best friends, combined with her father’s apparent betrayal of her mother, which caused her to rethink her choice of both college and future career. Nine years later, she’s a copywriter for a successful New York ad agency and avoids contact with her family and former friends as much as possible, returning home for the Christmas holidays, if at all. Everything changes, however, when she receives news that her mother has been reported missing.

Larkin rushes to join her family, the two women who raised her mother after their friend – Larkin’s grandmother – died in the fire that destroyed the house she had grown up in. Larkin has also been parented by both women, as well as by her mother, and feels closer to them, especially to CeeCee – her mother’s stepmother – than she does to Ivy, her own mother. The search for Ivy leads to the ruined house where her mother died, and where Ivy is now lying badly injured after falling through the rotted floorboards. As Ivy lies in the hospital, Larkin and CeeCee wonder separately what drew Ivy to the house, and what she had found out, but not told either of them, about the events leading to the fire from which Ivy was rescued at the expense of her mother’s life.

The story switches easily between 2010 and the 1950s as Larkin investigates and CeeCee remembers a trip she took with her two best friends immediately after they graduated from high school. On that trip, CeeCee, and Ivy’s mother, fell in love, one of them each with one of two brothers. Neither was to get a true happy ending, although both seemed to get what they had wished for when, immediately before leaving, they placed ribbons on an old oak tree, following a long-standing local tradition.

Larkin also has a complicated romantic life, as we learn through her revisiting of old memories connected with why she left town as an eighteen year old. All those involved in her downfall then still live in the town now, and she attempts to rekindle friendships with some while avoiding the outreachings of others, even though it seems likely to readers that she’s got things the wrong way around.

The eventual reveal of what happened on the night of the fire was both more, and less, complex than we had been led to fear, with all the characters involved in the incident acting as was to be expected from what we were told of their personalities beforehand. I was a little disappointed that a few details of subplots were held back in an attempt to ramp up suspense only for the truth to be less dire than it was made out to be, but overall this was an enjoyable read with a mostly uplifting ending.

Stevies CatGrade: B


On the banks of the North Santee River stands a moss-draped oak that was once entrusted with the dreams of three young girls. Into the tree’s trunk, they placed their greatest hopes, written on ribbons, for safekeeping—including the most important one: Friends forever, come what may.

But life can waylay the best of intentions….

Nine years ago, a humiliated Larkin Lanier fled Georgetown, South Carolina, knowing she could never go back. But when she finds out that her mother has disappeared, she realizes she has no choice but to return to the place she both loves and dreads—and to the family and friends who never stopped wishing for her to come home.

Ivy, Larkin’s mother, is discovered badly injured and unconscious in the burned-out wreckage of her ancestral plantation home. No one knows why Ivy was there, but as Larkin digs for answers, she uncovers secrets kept for nearly fifty years—whispers of love, sacrifice, and betrayal—that lead back to three girls on the brink of womanhood who found their friendship tested in the most heartbreaking ways.

Read an excerpt.

REVIEW: Dreams of Falling by Karen White