After reading Barefoot Girls by Tara McTiernan I could only think of one book to compare it to: Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. In this book, a group of four friends comes of age together on a island off the coast of Long Island. When they are together nothing else matters. They will do anything for each other. Sometimes I found that endearing, but towards the end I found it to be a little strange.
Hannah O'Brien is at a crossroads in her life. She is engaged to a man who would do anything for her. Her first novel has just come out. To an outsider, everything is falling into place. But a bad review in her hometown newspaper threatens to destroy the relationship she cherishes the most. Hannah claims her novel, which details a destructive relationship between a mother and daughter, is fiction, but a reviewer has a different take. It's too realistic for the novel not to have to some truth to it. Her mother, Keeley O'Brien Cohen, believes her reputation has been tarnished. Keeley's circle of friends, nicknamed the Barefooters, takes her side. But is there some truth to the novel?
Before the author delves deeply into Hannah's history, you feel like there is some truth to the novel. Despite being engaged, Hannah seems emotionally distant to her fiance. There are too many unspoken words between them. She doesn't always know how to respond to shows of affection. Why? What happened to her in the past? There has to be something. Most people would love to be in her position. She's practically allergic to wearing his engagement ring. It's hard to find love, so I found it odd that she took every opportunity to push her fiance, Daniel, away.
Is her mother so offended because there is some truth to it? Keeley constantly drowns herself in alcohol whenever things get tough. She did have a tough childhood. She had a mother who blamed Keeley for living. Keeley's brother died when she was a child, and her mother always blamed Keeley for being alive instead of her son. She tried to hide the bruises but her fellow Barefooters, Pam, Amy and Zo, knew the truth. I get that she didn't want to hurt Hannah like her mother hurt her, but it happened anyway. She doesn't give Hannah a chance to understand. She just shuts Hannah out. Is that really better? You have a daughter who believes you want nothing to do with her, shouldn't you do everything possible to make her feel better? At times, Keeley just seemed very self-absorbed.
There are several storylines going on in this book, but I connected the most to Hannah and Keeley. By the end, Zo's (a.k.a Zooey) storyline I found to be a little odd. There are lots of things people will do for friends, but Zo did something that, in my opinion, went beyond friendship. Zo betrayed Keeley in the worst way, but her way of showing forgiveness just didn't make sense to me. I can't give it away because that would ruin the book for future readers. All of the characters, including Pam, Amy, and Daniel, get their chance to shine in the book. Sometimes I thought that worked and sometimes I didn't. It works when we see how each character came of age. Some of them had very good childhoods and some didn't. They didn't allow their upbringing to define them. What didn't always work for me was the narration. The narration switches many times amongst all the main characters, including Daniel. There are also several time shifts within the same chapter, occasionally I had a hard time following the timeline.
Overall, it is a very good read. It will make you examine your own relationships, ultimately asking yourself how far you would go for a friend?
Rating: Give it a try
Note: I received an e-galley from the author Tara McTiernan in exchange for an honest review.