Finding Libbie by Deanna Lynn Sletten (Amazon link)
Description: Poring over a dusty hatbox of photographs in her grandmother’s closet, Emily Prentice is shocked to discover her father was married to his high school sweetheart before meeting her mother.
In the summer of 1968, Jack and Libbie fall in love under the spell of their small town, untouched by the chaos of the late sixties. Though Libbie’s well-to-do parents disapprove of Jack’s humble family and his aspiration to become a mechanic, she marries Jack a year after they graduate high school. But soon their happiness crumbles as Libbie’s mental state unravels and she is drawn to alcohol and drugs. Despite his efforts to help her, Jack loses the woman he loves and is forced to move on with his life.
Now that Emily’s mother has passed away, Jack is alone again, and Emily grows obsessed with the beautiful woman who had given her father such joy. Determined to find Libbie, Emily pieces together the couple’s fragmented past. But is it too late for happy endings?
Why I Picked This Book: I love the visual of finding a hatbox hidden in a closet full of photographs and old secrets
My Impression: I absolutely love books that focus on secrets in the past - especially if that past is discovered through a long forgotten packet of letters, or a hidden document or in this case a box full of photographs.
Right off the bat we are introduced to Emily who is kind of in a crossroads of her life and helping her Grandmother clean out the old farm house that has been in the Prentice family for generations. I really enjoyed seeing Emily's relationship with her grandmother and could understand her sadness that the land would soon be gone even if she understands why. Shortly after the discovery of the photos we meet Jack (aka Emily's father) as a junior in high school helping decorate for the prom because the decoration committee is run by the girl of his dreams - Libbie. Libbie is beautiful, intelligent, funny and from one of the most prominent families in town and it was lovely watching the romance grow. Jack is such a good guy. He's kind and thoughtful and a seriously hard worker. He tips the balance at a little too perfect but not in a way that annoyed me.
The book stayed in 1968 for the bulk of the story. While it was heartbreaking watching how Jack and Libbie's life spins out of control I was expecting more focus on the search for her and was a little disappointed in that element. Of course, that is purely personal and based on the fact that I love nothing more than a book that contains research! As well there is a lot of conversation and not as much doing which at times slowed the pace a little.
There were a few more serious notes than I expected but not in a way that ever strayed into overwrought and melodramatic. Sletten tackles mental illness, addiction, and class issues. How the mental illness and addiction was treated in the late 60s and as the book progressed was shocking and I couldn't help but be sympathetic to the characters even when they sometimes made it difficult.
This was an interesting read and one I enjoyed despite a couple of flaws. I especially loved the ending. While it is a little rushed I really enjoyed seeing what the future holds for all the characters.
Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: I would!
Would I Recommend this Book?: If the premise grabs you I wouldn't hesitate to jump right in!