Bethlehem by Karen Kelly
Publication date: July 9, 2019 – St. Martin’s Press
Review copy courtesy of the publisher
Following her father-in-law’s sudden death, Joanna Rafferty Collier begrudgingly moves into her husband’s family home – the venerable and imposing Brynmor – hoping to get her marriage back on solid ground and provide comfort to her grieving mother-in-law, Susannah Parrish Collier. But her mother-in-law is less than welcoming, enigmatic, and intimidating, and the months of living at Brynmor in forced companionship and congeniality, largely without her husband by her side, have begun to take their toll on Joanna. She’s been greeted, instead, by hints of tragedies past: Whose baby is buried in the unmarked grave? And what happened to Susannah’s one true love? Slowly, Joanna comes to understand that her mother-in-law is not the impenetrable woman she thought she was, but a fragile one, harboring a lifetime of secrets. (publisher)
My take: The publisher’s description tells everything you need to know. At least it was all I wanted to know going in. What I found is a really good story that kept me reading long into the night. Told in alternating perspectives of Joanna in the 1960s and Susannah in the 1920s, Bethlehem is the story of two women and their secrets and the cost of keeping those secrets. Not wanting to risk a spoiler I will just say I would recommend Bethlehem to fans of romantic historical fiction, family sagas and, ultimately, a well-told tale. I really liked it and won’t hesitate to read whatever Karen Kelly writes next.
Praise for Bethlehem:
“Mystery, first love, and long-held secrets fold together in this atmospheric tale of a family coming to a long overdue reckoning… and finding a way to rise from the aftermath.” – Lisa Wingate, New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours
“With delicate and insightful prose, Karen Kelly sweeps us into the psyches of two deeply entwined families as their lives – and secrets- unravel. A haunting debut, Bethlehem will pull you in from start to finish, and leave you grappling with the timeless quandary of when to bury the truth, and when to confront it.” – Georgia Hunter, New York Times bestselling author of We Were the Lucky Ones
About the author:
Karen Kelly has a BA in English from Vanderbilt University, and lives in Edina, Minnesota. She is also the author of Prospice.