Book Review: The Favorite Daughter by Patti Callahan Henry, 2019

I have really looked forward to reading this book by one of my fave authors, Patti Callahan Henry.  I loved her “Becoming Mrs. Lewis” as well as her other romantic, women’s fiction. This book was written before her huge breakout, “Mrs. Lewis,” a stellar book that surprised me with it’s clear and often poignant look at the life of a real, often-maligned, historical woman.  I knew not to expect the intensity and depth of that book, and so I went into this book looking for a story that would pull me into her coastal village vibe, and I wasn’t disappointed.

“TFD” is a love story which to me spoke of the love of family, especially the love between a father and daughter, with all of the nuanced feelings that come with this complicated and often fraught relationship.  In this book, there isn’t much conflict there, which I found refreshing. Instead, there is an undercurrent throughout the book of the main character, Lena, and her mothers’ ties. Her mother is gone, but the feeling that everything was never quite right between them is made clear to the reader in remembrances and in Lena’s very characteristics.  She is known as “A runner,” not in the physical sense, but in her emotional life, so much that when her sister told her she ran away from home once, Lena had forgotten it. Running appeared to be her main (and pretty much only) coping mechanism. She left her hometown of Watersend after a disastrous near-marriage, and has only returned sporadically since then, often “Sneaking” in and out of town.  

Lena’s new life in NYC is suddenly upended when her brother tells her she must come home.  It is a family emergency, a dire one which will certainly involve her estranged sister, and her sister’s family. Their father has been acting out of character, and his eventual diagnosis is not one that leaves him much time to spend with his children and grandchildren.  
This book explores family dynamics and the need for a home, a true place of relaxation and joy. and what it takes to build this place in the emotional sense.  The characters are mostly believable and the feelings they express as they wind through their journeys will easily relate to a female reader’s life. The character of Lena’s brother, “Shane” just misses having enough of a life to feel slightly shallow to me.  A young man who runs a bar, helps to take care of his father, and is the family peacemaker has no discernible flaws, no bad habits, and seemingly few of his own feelings about what is happening. He is like the family saint, but even saints have cracks. I would have liked to have read about them.  
For fans of Patti like me, this book is a send-back to the days before “Mrs. Lewis,” I especially enjoyed the small “Easter eggs” in the book that refer to places and people of the town from a previous book.
The story is an escape into issues that, like a two-hour Lifetime movie, you know will be resolved at the end in a satisfactory way.  It would make a great TV movie! I’m just saying it because it’s true. Calling Ms. Witherspoon!

Sweet story!

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