I just finished reading In Pieces by Rhonda Ortiz, a book that I made the foolish decision to read alongside an 800-page Tolstoy novel with a book club meeting deadline. I had to return In Pieces to the library on its due date, begrudgingly, less than a fourth of the way in. After that, it was checked out for a while (a good sign that others were enjoying it!) and I couldn’t get it back in my hands right away.
But when I did – wow, I got hooked quickly! Once I hit the midpoint of the novel, I could barely put it down. The first half is excellent, but the second half is even better as it draws in the reader – I wanted to know what would happen next.
My favorite thing? The characters. They were some of the most likeable, realistic characters I have read in a long time – more so than the aforementioned Tolstoy characters, actually. Neither Josiah nor Molly were perfect – both were quite real, and the way they interacted with each other felt very much like a real male/female relationship might actually unfold, especially given the time period in which the novel was set. I loved both Josiah and Molly, but Josiah was my favorite. When an author can bring characters to life that the reader truly cares about, then I call that success. Those two characters will live on in my mind. I enjoyed the side characters as well. Everyone had real dimension – no flat characters.
A short synopsis: Set in 1790s Boston, the storyline follows Molly Chase, who has lost both her mother and father in recent years, as she grapples with the impact of the tragedies. Her childhood friend, Josiah Robb, gives her a home in his house with his mother and sister while he stays on his boat (he’s a sailor) to avoid scandal. Molly’s father had taken on responsibility for Josiah’s education and some of his upbringing after his own father died when he was around age nine, so the families already have close ties. Molly wants to support herself through sewing, which is her form of artistic expression (and I loved the clever titles with their double meanings: “Mismeasurement,” “Alterations,” “Josiah’s Suit”), but when she starts to consider an easier way to cease being a burden on the Robb family (her perception, not theirs), the pace picks up and the reader is mentally urging Josiah to get back home, and quick! I won’t tell the rest so as not to spoil it for those who haven’t read it!
A great part of reading this novel was watching as both characters try to do the right, responsible thing based on their own perceptions of the situation and their male/female differences in approaching problems. Molly’s ignorance of Josiah’s true feelings for her made for a more interesting story, and his tenderness and tact towards her showed he was a true man. Josiah’s questioning of faith was woven into the plot beautifully and came across as important but not obtrusive to the flow of the rest of the story, and I hope to see where his questions take him in the rest of the series. The mentions of how he has been speaking to his deceased father – and how that disturbs his mother - have me intrigued to learn more, too.
Finally, the historical details painted a great backdrop to the story. It was clear that the author put research into the writing process to give an accurate portrayal of the setting. Historical figures appeared as minor characters and were mentioned throughout, making the novel a fantastic piece of historical fiction.
I will be purchasing a copy of this book despite having read the library’s copy, because it is just too good to not own it so as to be able to return to it again and share it with friends and family. Can’t wait for Book Two!