“Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.”
Over the last several years, I have always enjoyed reading books by Susan Wiggs. There is something about her way of writing, and her stories, that just draws me in. As I am sure you have caught on by now, I am a sucker for a love story with a happy ending. I thoroughly enjoy the scandal, drama, and mystery that leads to a love worth finding. The Oysterville Sewing Circle is one of the books that I purchased from the Half Price Bookstore visit I made a month or so ago. The plot summary of scandal intrigued me, and I was ready to see how Susan Wiggs turned a tragedy into a happy ending. However, I was quite surprised by the quite heavy topics of domestic violence, addiction, and even sexual assault she broached and covered in this story. If you are in the mood for a light and sweet love story, I do not recommend grabbing this one to read. However, if you like to see a love story that works through these heavy topics, I suggest giving this one a try!
Caroline Shelby drives into the town of Oysterville at the break of dawn, coming home after many years living and working in the cutthroat fashion industry of New York City. As she was finally reaching potential success, a wave of scandal blacklists her in the industry. Then, as she attempts to get her bearings back, an unexpected tragedy forces Caroline to flee back home to Oysterville. With two kids, Flick and Addie, in tow, Caroline as their legal guardian, must find a way to help the kids through tragedy and find herself again. But, the town she left behind has changed. Her siblings have their own complications in life, her parents are hoping to pass on their thriving restaurant, and then there is Will Jensen.
Will is a decorated Navy SEAL returned home after being wounded overseas. Will and Caroline were the best of summer friends when Will came to town each year to stay with his grandparents, and there was always the promise of maybe something more for them...until he met Caroline's other best friend, Sierra, and fell in love. Now that she has returned, Caroline must face her past. Living in such a small town, there is no way she can avoid seeing Will and Sierra. As Caroline is settling back in, she learns that she is not the only person dealing with the repercussions of domestic violence and so decides to start a women's group.
I am sure you are wondering what this has to do with a sewing group and it is actually quite a nice tie in. Caroline, at a very young age, loved to design and create clothes. Each of her siblings, when they got to the age where they could begin working, started out in the family business learning it from dishwasher on up. Caroline absolutely hated working in the restaurant, and so she found her own solution. If her parents would agree, Mrs. Lindy Bloom, who owned the town sewing shop, would let Caroline work in her shop. That opened a whole new world for Caroline, and I honestly think gave her the passion and drive to truly pursue her dream of creating fashion for a living.
Caroline worked there from a young age, up until she left Oysterville. Now that Caroline has returned home, she is visiting Mrs. Bloom and sharing her story of how she came to be guardian to Flick and Addie. Mrs. Bloom then shares her own experiences with domestic violence, as well as introduces Caroline to one other who has a similar experience. This leads Caroline down a path of wanting to learn of others experiences so that she could give the best help and guidance to Flick and Addie as they grow and ask questions - hence, the sewing circle. Whoever would like to join is welcome. Whoever would like to share is encouraged. there are no obligations. I love this idea that Caroline created. It is nice to see a character with a problem who actively looks for ways to make a difference. Flick and Addie are used to their mom purchasing brand new clothes for their first day of school, but Caroline designs and makes them new outfits. Caroline is trying to learn more about domestic violence and how it affects those who have experienced it, so she creates a "sewing circle" support group for women.
In addition to working through the heavy topics of domestic violence and addiction, Caroline is also growing and learning how to be a mother and support person for two young kids. Throughout the book, there are friendships that are coming to life again, as well as a love that is blooming again. Caroline is intrigued but also uncomfortable when first seeing Will, and then Sierra, again. She is friendly but still a little aloof. Yet, as Caroline evolves throughout the story, she realizes that she can't change history and must just go with the flow and be as friendly as she can be. While doing so, she realizes how much she missed those friendships. Yet, in Will's case, she missed the friendship but also the promise of something more. As the three of them grow closer, Sierra shares her unhappiness with an uncomfortable Caroline. Next thing you know, and I am still uncertain of how much time passed, Sierra and Will are divorced, Sierra has moved away, and Will and Caroline are starting to flirt just a little bit more until they realize just how much in love they are.
Now, I truly did enjoy this story overall. However, there are so many things happening all at once throughout the story, that I feel that each topic (whether it is Caroline growing to become a mom, the love story unfolding, the support group for women, Caroline's new budding business, the truth behind what happened to Flick and Addie's mom) just did not get the time and development it needed. Parts of the story definitely suffered, and there was a lot of bouncing around from one topic to the other. But with all these different things happening within the story, one key element is seen throughout the whole book, and that is the realization of love.
You felt the love that Caroline had for her friend Angelique (Flick and Addie's mom), you saw the love that Caroline's family had for her and ultimately for Flick and Addie as well as they were welcomed back and immediately looked after and helped. You felt the love that the women in the support group developed for each other, as they all started to encourage and help one another as they work through their trauma and felt the light at the end of the tunnel. You watched young, first love materialize out of a friendship that years later turned into true love. Seeing all of this within the story makes it ultimately a great read. But I gave the book an overall 3 out of 5 stars because, like I mentioned, there was so much going on and jumping around that I do feel that some things were lost and not fully developed as much as it could be.
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