This is a very solemn book, with a serious tone and tenor throughout - even during the more light-hearted moments in the story. And that is because it is about loss in all of its forms: the loss of a loved one, a relationship, one's health, independence, youth, and innocence. But it's incredibly relatable because we have all faced loss of some sort in our lives, and have had to make decisions about how to navigate through it. This book is about how one particular family responded to a multitude of losses and tried to do the right thing by the people they loved.
The family seems so fractured in the beginning, beyond repair, but then you see glimmers of hope and start rooting for them to overcome their sorrow. Subtleties slowly build into complex characters, each battling their own demons but entwined in the struggles and choices of the others. What's so interesting is that for the most part they each fight their own battles in silence. There's no examining of feelings or getting things out into the open in this family; they bear their crosses in private. As one of the main characters acknowledges, "Each of us held things that weighed us down, to different degrees...No one was exempt. All of us whizzing by each other on a city street or highway, wearing our polite public masks, while the internal scars, the transgressions and the sadness of egregious loss, clung to us on the inside like trace elements."
To that end I found the book sort of depressing . While Woodruff sets us up to believe "Loss is an invitation to change, it's not the end," I couldn't help but notice that these characters didn't change, per se - they just chose to bury their feelings about loss and keep silent about their transgressions in an effort to keep everyone else happy: "Maybe silence was a price we sometimes paid for loving so completely, the price we sometimes paid to protect those we loved most."