Messy, Wonderful Us by Catherine Isaac

Review :

What if loving someone means keeping a secret that will break your heart

In 1983, Northern Italy, a letter is written and sent. Its recipient hides it away as it contains shocking and unthinkable secrets. Many years later, academic research scientist Allison (Allie) Culpepper finds a photograph along with the hidden letter amongst her gran's possessions. She tries to discuss the revealing contents with her Grandma Peggy, but her Gran refuses to open up to her about it. So Allie decides to take matters into her own hands and takes a trip to Italy, along with her close school friend Ed, to discover the disturbing truth for herself...

Messy, Wonderful Us is a complex story of love, relationships, self discovery, loyalties and responsibilities. Catherine Isaac has made a great job of seamlessly weaving together three timelines to tell the story; Allie's and Ed's in the present day told by each of them; flashback snippets from their friendship over the years; and someone in the past from an (at first) unnamed narrator.

Set against the backdrop of Northern Italy, the author's descriptions of all the places Allie and Ed visited were so vivid that it almost felt that I was there alongside them, while they explored and took in the sights around them. The characterisation by Catherine Isaac was truly masterful and was particularly entranced by Ed's story, although I was still interested in learning more about Allie and the anonymous narrator's past.

Everything was solidly wrapped up in the poignant and believable denouement and I highly recommend this bittersweet tale about the messier side of love and relationships. The richness in detail together with a large smattering of Italian goodness elicit this affecting and riveting read.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel at my request, from Simon and Schuster UK via NetGalley. This review is my own unbiased opinion.


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