November 4, 2013

Book Review: "Harper Lee and Peppermint Candy" by Paula Hennessy

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Title, by Author

Harper Lee and Peppermint Candy
By Paula Hennessy
Self-published
Reviewed by Madeleine Maccar

Harper Lee and Peppermint Candy follows three generations of women but shifts its primary focus between Addie, whose easy-life lucky streak is nearing its end with the discovery that she has late-stage cancer, and her granddaughter, Megan, who begins the novel as just another messed-up teenager holding everyone around her emotionally hostage before realizing that her years of attention-seeking antics have sent shockwaves through her extended family. Megan's mother, Laura, has been prone to wildly repellant histrionics since childhood; the family assumes this toxic proximity could only result in a train wreck of a child, a suspicion that is more or less confirmed when Laura's departure coincides with the beginning of Megan's remarkable turnaround.

This is a brave little novel that taps into its multi-faceted characters' potential to tactfully approach uncomfortable truths: Some people are legitimately struggling with psychological issues while others are bored and craving the drama that arises from an illusion of mental illness; choosing between palliative treatment for maximum quality of life and aggressive medical procedures that offer any chance of a greater quantity of days is a decision that only the individual facing his or her mortality can make; the allure and, eventually, sobering price to pay for living in denial; some people are woefully unfit for the parental roles they've assumed; family can be redemptive and ruinous in equal measures. Author Paula Hennessy drew on her experiences working in a children's psychological unit to celebrate both the human capacity for change and the far-reaching benefits of increased self-awareness, both of which greatly contribute to the believable duality of her characters. Harper Lee and Peppermint Candy is a heartfelt, optimistic-without-being-treacly tribute to how one person can leave a lasting impression on others, sometimes for the worse but oftentimes to a staggeringly positive effect.

Out of 10: 8.1

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Filed by Madeleine Maccar at 5:00 AM, November 4, 2013. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Fiction | Madeleine Maccar | Reviews |