Shawna has been the perfect daughter ever since her mother left her and her family for Fran Goodman at age seven. She strives to make her father proud by getting excellent grades, getting into an excellent college, and becoming a doctor. But she's thrown off course when her mother unexpectedly dies, and her controlling and overbearing father begins to take control over everything. For the first time ever, Shawna gets to know her stepbrothers, who knew her mother better than she did. And she has to face the fact that there might be more to the circumstances of her mother's departure than she allowed herself to realize.
Compelling, emotional, and down-to-earth, Say the Word is a wonderfully written novel that looks long and hard at family dynamics and how the relationships between family members—both the unwanted and the loved—shape, mold, and effect who we are. The plot is unique, and rendered all the more believable by how Garsee distinguishes her characters: Shawna, who feels the need to strive to be perfect, and her father, who takes his abandonment harshly, and becomes bitter and even more domineering. Fran and her sons and their Jewish practices offer a unique view on the situation, and Shawna's strained relationship with them is intriguing to observe.
Best of all, Garsee perfectly captures the idea that life changes, and people don't always stay who you want them to be. Shawna struggles to accept this, and to let go of her prejudices and bitterness, which isn't an easy task (yet another believable element in Say the Word). But overall, Say the Word is an honest and unflinching book that illustrates to readers that life is full of a lot of tough decisions—and there aren't always easy answers or solutions. Witty, entertaining, and completely genuine, Jeannine Garsee is an author to watch.
Cover Comments: I like the orange theme (it's a color not usually seen on cover, and it's done very novely on this one) and the swirl design that is the theme throughout the entire book. The close-up of the model is very accurate to how Shawna is described which is nice, and the two different images provide an interesting contrast. Overall, it's quite an appealing cover!