The jacket description led me to believe that this book is about Charlotte, an ICU doctor who with her writer boyfriend is trying to uncover the identity of a Jane Doe patient, the victim of a hit-and-run. And for the first chapter at least, that's true. However, the second chapter and alternating chapters throughout the book are about a young girl named Raney growing up in the sticks, struggling to cobble together a living with her aging grandfather. Although Cassella makes it clear fairly early on who Raney is and what her connection to Charlotte's narrative will be, I couldn't suppress my irritation at the publisher for the misleading blurb.
So let me be clear: Dr. Charlotte Reese is not the central character of this book. And it's a shame, really, because I found her far more compelling than the hardscrabble Raney with her exhaustingly terrible taste in men. I waded through the lengthy chapters detailing Raney's ups and downs (mostly downs), impatiently waiting for Cassella to get back to Charlotte and what the jacket indicated was the primary narrative. I thought I was getting a book about a doctor who has to make tough choices about end-of-life care, who risks over-investing in a patient by trying to find out who she is. There's some of that, sure, but mostly this is a book about a girl who grows up poor and can't find a way out of poverty as an adult.
Expectations, clearly, are powerful. I would have enjoyed the reading of this book far more if the publisher had been more honest about the focus and structure. If I'd gone in expecting a storyline alternating between two very different women, one a privileged and educated physician and one a talented but self-defeating artist, I wouldn't have spent so much time distracted, waiting for the novel suddenly to conform to the jacket's claims. I would probably be praising the contrast between Charlotte and Raney and lauding Cassella's well-timed revelations. I'd probably say I couldn't wait for the mystery of Jane Doe's identity to unfold, and beyond that, the series of choices and actions that landed her in Charlotte's ICU ward, comatose and apparently missed by no one.
It may be too late for me, but it's not too late for you! May my misfortune be your gain. You can have the experience that I wish I'd had. Read this book, by all means, but for the love, ignore everything the publisher said about it. Just listen to the sound of my voice: This is a book about two women. One a doctor, the other a mystery. Seemingly strangers, but their lives are entwined in ways they could never have imagined. That's really all you need to know.