What an engaging read – this tale of grief, love, family, and friendship.
When Uma discovers her husband’s infidelity just hours before his untimely death, the carefully woven threads of her life begin to unravel.
Struggling to manage the grief of those around her, she escapes to a remote cottage by the coast where she swims in the winter sea, cooks the forgotten Keralan dishes of her childhood and begins the search for her husband’s lover.
It isn’t long before Uma realizes what she must do to pick up the tattered threads of her life. But will her choices jeopardize the only family she has left?
Petals and Stones explore the ties which bind us together and the choices we make that can tear us apart. This book traces the devastating impact of the discovery of infidelity immediately before a partner’s death, so that grief is contaminated by anger and betrayal. Joanne Burn’s writing explores with care and precision the nuances of love deferred for the best of intentions, the tides within family and friendship dynamics and the corrosive lies we tell ourselves.
Uma like many women, finds out her husband has been cheating. She is ready to confront him and wants to know the identity of his mistress. As she plans their conversation before he arrives home, he is killed in an auto accident.
The timeline switches from the present (2015) back to 1997 and charts the friendship of Uma, Daniel, Pippa and Aaron. I’m not sure why I was so gripped by this, maybe I’ve always had a secret yearning to run away to a cottage by the sea, but it really held my attention. There’s a great cast of characters and although Uma is central, I feel I need to acknowledge her interfering mother-in-law Mary as someone everyone knows.
Through Uma’s journey, Joanne Burn explores issues such as the emphasis on image over truth in a marriage, whether something built on a lie is sustainable, and why it sometimes takes a tragedy to recognize the reality of a situation. The author also uses symbolism effectively, specifically the lighting of fires (for cooking or warmth) to illustrate Uma’s inner fire being relit.
I especially liked that she used the four elements (air, fire, water, earth) as a basis for Uma’s healing: the way Uma was swept along by the breeze of her marriage (and the winds that signify change as she comes to her realizations), the previously mentioned fires, the ocean that calls to Uma and invigorates her, and the spices, stones, and flower petals that finally give her the answers she has been looking for.
I loved the writing flow and the premises of the story. This is a book I was unable to put down and that I highly recommend.