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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
Traces of Home (Open Wide My Heart Book 1) by S. S. Bazinet takes us right inside the lives of some seriously dysfunctional people from difficult childhoods. Lea, a successful pediatrician, is haunted by her childhood memories when her parents gave her none of the love and support she needed, instead leaving her to be brought up by nannies. One brutal nanny, in particular, had physically and mentally abused and tormented her when she was just three. As a result, she found it impossible to get close to anyone as an adult. Engaged to an eminent but somewhat emotionless surgeon, Lea decided to run away and stop Matthew, her fiancé, from the mistake of marrying her. When she is struck by a car, driven by a hard-working cardiologist, and loses all memory of her past life, Eric and his mother take her in and show her the love and concern she had always lacked. What she doesn’t initially realize is that Eric and Margaret have their own internal traumas to deal with. Throw in a somewhat confused and frustrated psychiatrist and you have a story full of angst, loss, doubt, self-discovery, and love.
This story is essentially about family and the pressures and pain that parents can transfer to their children. In Traces of Home, author S. S. Bazinet has created an ensemble cast of characters, each of whom has something in their past they are ashamed of or they are struggling to live up to - such as the expectations of others, be it their parents, their peers, or their loved ones. The characters are drawn to an absolute extreme but the author does an excellent job of describing and understanding the weird dynamics that go into making family relationships work, let alone the extreme dynamics of these terribly dysfunctional people. The overwhelming saving grace of the story is the deep caring and love that is evident in each of the characters beneath their exterior walls of indifference and pride that they have placed around themselves.
An incredibly easy book to read, the author’s style and changes in POV’s were abrupt and frequent, which allowed each of the characters to shine at various times. I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Matthew, Lea’s fiancé, and Eric, her angel and faux brother. The chemistry and humor between them had me chuckling and turning pages rapidly. It is difficult to write convincingly about the angst of familial relationships and I think the author does very well at that. If you enjoy family drama and the power of love to overcome all odds, you’ll enjoy this book. I look forward to the further adventures of these oddball characters in the next installment in the Open Wide My Heart series.