Things I Never Told You – Beth K. Vogt – Tyndale House Publishers – Published 8 May 2018
It’s been ten years since Payton Thatcher’s twin sister died in an accident, leaving the entire family to cope in whatever ways they could. No longer half of a pair, Payton reinvents herself as a partner in a successful party-planning business and is doing just fine–as long as she manages to hold her memories and her family at arm’s length.
But with her middle sister Jillian’s engagement, Payton’s party-planning skills are called into action. Which means working alongside her opinionated oldest sister, Johanna, who always seems ready for a fight. They can only hope that a wedding might be just the occasion to heal the resentment and jealousy that divides them . . . until a frightening diagnosis threatens Jillian’s plans and her future. As old wounds are reopened and the family faces the possibility of another tragedy, the Thatchers must decide if they will pull together or be driven further apart.
Things I Never Told You is both heartbreaking and uplifting, a story of sisters, grief, long-held secrets, the things that pull a family apart and the steps needed to bring healing to broken relationships.
Ten years ago, Payton Thatcher’s twin sister died. The Thatcher family coped in different ways, with Payton pulling away from her two older sisters. Now, Payton helps run an event planning business and is forced into working with her eldest sister, Johanna, to plan their middle sister, Jillian’s wedding. But a shocking diagnosis leaves Jillian reeling, while the ten-year anniversary of Pepper’s death has Payton caught in a web of grief and guilt. As the Thatcher sisters face life’s challenges, present and past, they have the opportunity to reassess – both their individual life choices and aspirations, and their relationship as sisters.
Things I Never Told You has been marketed as women’s fiction, not contemporary romance. And it does have, from the cover and synopsis to the story itself, a more introspective and reflective tone. However, there is still a hint of romance, both in Jillian’s relationship with her fiancé and with Payton’s story as she reconnects with an old classmate. However, sisterly relationships, grief, reconciliation and self-evaluation are the dominant threads of this novel.
The chapters switch between Payton’s first-person narration to third-person from the perspectives of both Payton’s sister, Jillian, and Payton’s old classmate, Zach. It was a little disorientating as they switch, but it works to clearly delineate between Payton’s story and the perspectives of those around her. I also got Payton and Pepper, and Jillian and Johanna a bit confused at first, with their similar name groupings. Yet as the story unfolds, these four very different sisters, connected by childhood and tragedy, became endearing and distinct characters, each struggling with their own battles.
By a few chapters in, it is clear that there is far more to the story of Things I Never Told You than first expected. Payton, as well as carrying grief over her twin’s death, also carries guilt and a secret she has kept for the past ten years. It is robbing her of a chance to embrace her life. Through frequent flashbacks to Payton’s childhood and dream conversations she holds with her sister, readers slowly piece together the truth of what transpired ten years ago and what ruptured the relationship between Payton and her two elder sisters. Exploring the past leads Payton to connect with Zach, an old classmate who was involved in the tragedy of Pepper’s death. Told alongside Payton’s story, is Jillian’s battle with cancer and the effect this has on her self-esteem, and her relationship with her fiancé. The chapter sections from Jillian’s perspective allow her story and pain to resonate – bringing a further element to this complex and interwoven novel.
The Christian faith elements of Things I Never Told You are delicately woven into the story, yet do not become a focus of the book. Neither Payton, nor any of her living family members are Christian. It is through both Zach and Pepper that Payton begins to encounter God, and Payton is only beginning to explore her sister’s faith at the close of the book. I really hope there is to be a second Thatcher Sisters novel. Payton’s story has so much more potential, from her just-beginning faith journey to her friendship with Zach, Jillian’s battle has only just started, and Johanna didn’t get a chance to tell her story in this book. There is so much more to explore in the Thatcher sisters’ lives.
Things I Never Told You is both uplifting and heartbreaking, and I highly recommend it to readers who enjoy stories about relationships and reconciliation.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Genre: Christian contemporary, Women’s fiction
Themes: Family, grief, guilt, death, twins, sisters, cancer, marriage, event planning, faith.
Advisory: References to sexual relationships.
Published: 8 May 2018 by Tyndale House Publishers.
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, ebook. 432 pages.
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