Already Home is a perfect example of why Susan Mallery is one of the most popular writers of contemporary women’s fiction. Mallery excels at creating strong, relatable female characters – her heroines juggle commitments to family, relationships, career and life, and do it with humor and grace. Mallery’s newest book, Already Home, is the story of four such women who are brought together by biology and luck, and must decide where they fit in each other’s lives.
Restaurant chef Jenna Stevens has had a rough year. Fresh out of an emotionally abusive marriage, she retrenches to her Texas hometown with a vague plan to open a cooking store. With the help of her mother and a savvy, punkish store manager, Jenna’s business takes off. When a pair of middle-aged hippies named Serenity and Tom walk into her store though, Jenna is shocked to find out they’re her birth parents. Though she always knew she was adopted, she never sought to meet her biological family and she definitely isn’t prepared for it now.
Mallery’s novel is told through the eyes the women at the heart of the story:
- Jenna – a gifted chef, raised in a happy home with loving parents;
- Beth – Jenna’s adoptive mother, who built her whole world around Jenna;
- Serenity – Jenna’s birth mother, who had very good reasons to give Jenna up but now has her own motives for seeking Jenna out; and
- Violet – a young woman from the streets who desperately wants a mother of any kind.
Mallery deftly moves between narrators so that the reader sympathizes with each of the women, and each of the women are so genuine in their feelings.
It’s easy to see why Jenna is so torn – she feels she’s being asked to choose between the woman who raised her and the woman who gave birth to her, and it just doesn’t seem that there’s enough love to go around. Of all the characters, Beth most genuinely surprised me. I had expected her to display jealousy and anger, but instead she encourages Jenna to get to know Serenity. Beth doesn’t become the cardboard cutout jealous mother –Mallery gives her heart and depth. My favorite character, though, was Violet, who is funky, funny, sensible, and hungry to be loved. (Favorite male character: Jenna’s long-lost brother Dragon. Yum.)
If you’re a Mallery fan, you’ll definitely enjoy Already Home – she’s on my auto-buy list for sure. If you’ve never read Susan Mallery, you’ll like this book, and may enjoy some of her other series. The Bakery Sisters trilogy is about three estranged women who inherit the family business, and the ongoing Fools Gold, California, series has been so popular that Mallery has launched a website for the town and is already writing more books.