A few months ago, I spend two days completely immersed in Catherine Isaac’s beautiful latest novel. Messy, Wonderful Us is a fantastic and emotional journey of self-discovery that will keep you glued to the page. It’s out today in paperback and I am delighted to share again my review.
In late 1983, a letter arrives from Italy, containing secrets so unthinkable that it is hidden away, apparently forever. More than three decades later, it is found . . . by the last person who was ever supposed to see it.
When Allie opens an envelope in her grandmother’s house, it changes everything she knows about her family – and herself.
With the truth liable to hurt those she loves most, she hires a private detective to find out what happened to her late mother in the summer before Allie was born. Taking leave from her job as a research scientist, she is led to the sun-drenched shores of Lake Garda, accompanied by her best friend Ed.
But the secrets that emerge go far beyond anything they were expecting. Now, Allie must find the courage to confront her family’s tangled past and reshape her own future.
What would you do if you find out that everything you believed in about your birth and your family is a lie? Would you look for the truth even if it could hurt everyone you love? That’s a hard decision to make for Allie, the protagonist of Catherine Isaac’s beautiful new novel, Messy, Wonderful Us.
When Allie goes through her grandmother’s drawers what she finds is not at all what she expected. The discovery of a photo and a letter from Italy turns her world upside down. Allie decides to travel to Italy in search of truth without saying anything to her father or her grandparents. Accompanying her is her best friend Ed. Wealthy, handsome, and with a beautiful wife, Ed’s life should be perfect. Yet, he can’t sleep and he is depressed and, in need to take some serious decisions, he decides to take a break from his life and go with Allie to Italy. Travelling from Lake Garda to Portofino, secrets come to light, secrets that could change their lives forever.
The characters are not perfect. They are flawed, but they are also authentic, relatable, and very likable (at least, most of them because there is also a villain). There is also a third character’s point view, with their own secrets and whose identity is revealed towards the end so I am not going to tell much about them. My favourite character was Allie’s father, Joe. So sweet and good and I loved reading about their father-daughter close relationship.
I loved the beautiful descriptions of Italy, so evocative and detailed that it was almost like being there. It’s a fantastic setting for this heart-warming and immersive story. Catherine Isaac masterfully explores themes of grief, second chances, self-discovery, family, and friendship. I was tense as the secrets are slowly revealed and I didn’t relax until the very ending of the story. There are many emotional moments, but I also had a few laugh at Allie and Ed’s witty exchanges and I loved how easy their relationship is.
Messy, Wonderful Us is a brilliant and thought-provoking novel and I can’t wait to read more by Catherine Isaac.