The Frayed Ribbon
by R W Hart

"'So how has the reunion been for you up until now?'
'Gail didn’t say a word as she landed a punch close to his nose.'
Wade stepped back from the bag.
'It’s been that good?'"

Delightful characters and a sense of fun shine in this suspenseful book about a woman’s search for her own birth mother, as well as a mysterious little girl named Lexi, befriended in a hospital sixteen years ago. Since the day she discovered she was adopted, Gail Rollins, mother and wife, became obsessed with family. Her elaborate attempts to bring her adopted family under one roof for Christmas create a theatre for typical and often hilarious family dysfunction. Against this backdrop of frantic yet loving activity, Gail searches for her birth mother and begins a complicated quest to find Lexi. The only clue comes from a litter of stuffed dogs, leashed by a ribbon, one end cut and frayed after Gail gifted a puppy to Lexie sixteen years ago.

The family is lovingly drawn. Wade, Gail’s husband, is laughably bad at pulling off surprises, and her brothers are frustratingly remote but caring. The sister-in-law is a gem of laziness, taking advantage of Gail’s zealous desire for perfection. Gail’s amusingly obsessive emphasis on food for the gathering and scenes with spunky six-year-old Amber and the love-bitten teenager Jason combine well with an atmosphere of suspense. Funny scenes abound, including death by grape juice, blackmail by lingerie, and a surveillance scene at the local mall, which successfully marries plot advancement with high slapstick, a difficult coupling.

Unique characters, a loving voice and a true gift for humor and suspense shine in this novel. When multiples plotlines begin to knot, a bit of a tangle to follows. The dialog could be more natural, and the characters might be expanded. Ambitious goals await the ending and, though met, feel rushed, propped by convenience. For a dose of offbeat family fun, this book is just what the doctor ordered.

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