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"A deftly crafted and consistently compelling read from cover to cover... an extraordinary novel that underscores author Sandra Hutchison's genuine flair for originality and storytelling." -- Midwest Book Review Small Press Bookwatch
"There should be something here for anyone who wants a good read, regardless of how you define that." -- BigAl, BigAl's Books and Pals
"A mixture of romance, intrigue, family secrets, past lives, and a house that is as much a character as Tara was in Gone With the Wind create a spell-binding read that you won't want to put down. I give Bardwell's Folly 6 out of 5 stars." -- Julie Failla Earhart, St. Louis Public Library Book Challenge
"If one measure of a successful novel is its power to make readers uncomfortable while enchanting them with a compelling story, this book exceeds the mark." -- Terry Plumb, The Herald (Rock Hill, SC)
"A highly engaging story with well-fleshed-out characters and flawless prose." -- Tahlia Newland, author of The Locksmith's Secret
"This author's work is always a delight.... It's like putting on a pair of comfy slippers, grab your throw, hot chocolate and laze on the sofa and read." -- Sue Ward, Read Along with Sue
From the Author
Alcoholic families tend to be good at keeping secrets, but Dori discovers her parents took that to an extreme. When circumstances force her to seek out the truth about her famous father, she'll find way more than she bargained for, but she'll also find a way to finally make peace with his legacy.
I'm Southern-born myself, and Nathan Bedford Forrest -- slave trader, Confederate general, early Klan leader, and (at least according to family lore) a man who ultimately repented his sins -- is an ancestor on the maternal side. I drew a bit on that complicated heritage to write this novel about an impoverished young woman from a small New England town who knows very little about her roots, yet may find they give her exactly what she needs to flourish.
This is Sandra Hutchison's third book, and she just keeps getting better. As in her previous novels, the story develops in a way that is both logical and unexpected, and the characters are complex and likable and altogether human. Dori, the protagonist of Bardwell's Folly, is shackled to the legacy of her famous novelist father, who died in a plane crash along with Dori's mother and all her siblings except one ne'er-do-well brother. They can't sell the family home, a replica of a Southern plantation, because their father left it in trust to a committee devoted to preserving his literary reputation. Dori lives in the monstrosity of a house, subject to the whims of the committee, supporting herself by working as an aide in a nursing home. Her emotional resilience and wry view of her own shortcomings make her an endearing character. When a series of events inspires her to take charge of her life and inheritance, she begins a journey to uncover the truth about her father's past. There are plenty of surprises along the way--and the hope that, in the end, the truth might set her free to live her own life.
This is the second novel of Sandra Hutchison’s I have read (The Ribs and Thigh Bones of Desire was the first) and she has a crafty way of leading you by the hand to unexpected destinations. Bardwell’s Folly starts out in a comfortable place, with all the characters and trappings of a cozy pastoral romantic comedy, then expands gradually into something else: a journey of self discovery that involves elements of racial strife and class tensions, as well as the perils of social media and public shaming.
None of the latter elements would resonate so effectively with the reader, however, without the presence of two of the author’s most likable main characters. Dori Bardwell is a twenty-something woman in a small New England town, naïve and headstrong in equal measure, who lives a life with an almost fairytale dimension. Orphaned when most of her family is killed in a plane crash, she lives in a house that is really a museum, a replica of an antebellum mansion maintained by a board of trustees in tribute to Dori’s father, an award-winning author of pre-Civil War southern fiction. Her life is one of genteel poverty and restlessness. Joe Gagnon is her opposite number in every way, a handsome, level-headed landscaper with little patience for drama.
But drama is what he gets with Dori, as the two rekindle a long dormant romance. On the one hand, her father’s literary reputation and her own precarious financial situation are at stake as an unscrupulous publisher seeks control over both her father’s estate and an unfinished novel. On the other hand, a foolish and insensitive racial remark turns the white-hot glare of media attention upon her, putting her in danger and forcing her to go into hiding. In her travels, Dori will find out who her real friends are and discover some uncomfortable truths about her father’s legacy.
Will Dori find her way home? Will love triumph in the end? No spoilers here, except to note that Hutchison’s stories are always surprising and rewarding. Sandra Hutchison is the best sort of writer, an adept spinner of a good romantic tale and a principled thinker drawn to considering larger themes. I look forward to her next book.