Caroline Shelby was a rising star in the fashion world, on the cusp of living the dream she sat out to achieve a decade ago. However, after a famous designer sabotages her career and her best friend dies, leaving Caroline as guardian to her two children, she’s left scrounging for a way forward— professionally and personally. And while she never thought she’s return to her childhood home of Oysterville, her family and old friends might be the only people who can help her navigate the new life thrust upon her. But settling into the flow of her former life also means digging up small town ghosts, good and bad.
At the start, Caroline is pushing through perhaps the lowest point in her life. Author Susan Wiggs expertly navigates these early chapters, raising Caroline as someone on the verge of getting everything she’s ever wanted. And yet, through no fault of her own, it’s all ripped away. Between the downward spiral of her career at the hands of a rotten designer and the death of her friend, Angelique, she’s forced to change her life. This beginning is beautifully understated, with a careful friction placed against Caroline’s wants— with a massive independent streak, it’s not the kind of life she ever anticipated for herself, but she still commits to the two children she’s now responsible for, Addie and Flick.
Of course, Caroline is the main reason Wiggs’s work clicks together. Though Wiggs plays with alternating timelines, dragging up complicated relationships, forgotten feelings, and a community in flux, the focus is Caroline. Determined and with passion, she drives the action forward and the narrative draws parallels between her previous and current lives— really, she becomes two complex characters rolled into one.
Wiggs doesn’t shy away from difficult topics, including race, immigration, and domestic abuse— ultimately, Caroline forms a support group for survivors. However, she treads lightly, pulling away from the heaviest details while maintaining her point. It’s a balancing act, and Wiggs succeeds in showcasing harsh realities without them becoming too overwhelming or sterile.
Ultimately, Wiggs has crafted an intimate book with immense heart. Most importantly, it feels believable.
Title: The Oysterville Sewing Circle
Author: Susan Wiggs
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: August 13, 2019
Classification: Women’s Fiction
Note: I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley.