A Million Reasons Why by Jessica Strawser, 2021
Caroline and her husband Walt
Sela and her ex Doug, and best friend Leigh
The Plot (from Goodreads):
When two strangers are linked by a mail-in DNA test, it’s an answered prayer―that is, for one half-sister. For the other, it will dismantle everything she knows to be true. But as they step into the unfamiliar realm of sisterhood, the roles will reverse in ways no one could have foreseen.
Caroline lives a full, happy life―thriving career, three feisty children, enviable marriage, and a close-knit extended family. She couldn’t have scripted it better. Except for one thing: She’s about to discover her fundamental beliefs about them all are wrong.
Sela lives a life in shades of gray, suffering from irreversible kidney failure. Her marriage crumbled in the wake of her illness. Her beloved mother and lifelong best friend passed away. She refuses to be defined by her grief, but still, she worries about what will happen to her two-year-old son if she doesn’t find a donor match in time.
She’s the only one who knows Caroline is her half-sister. That Caroline may be her best hope for a future. But Sela’s world isn’t as clear-cut as it appears―and one misstep could destroy it all. After all, would you risk everything to save the life of the person who turned yours upside down?
From the moment Caroline meets Sela, both must reexamine what it really means to be family, the depths of a mother’s love, and the limits and the power of forgiveness.
The DNA debacle topic is hot right now! I’ve recently read The One, Little Pieces of Me, and The Half Sister, all of which center around DNA tests that brought back results that the customer was not expecting.
A Million Reasons Why certainly was the most brilliantly thought-provoking of them all. It makes the reader ponder what they would do in any of the character’s situations–Sela, as she struggles with how to make such a big ask of someone she hardly knows; Caroline as she decides whether to give Sela her kidney, and Caroline’s family as they grapple with who to support.
Both main characters were brilliantly developed. It is so easy to empathize with both sides, and I found myself eager to see what Caroline would decide, or if another solution would turn up at the eleventh hour. I was, however, a little annoyed by Walt trying to make Caroline’s decisions for her instead of supporting her and being there to help her decide for herself.
I do think the book jacket description requires some clarification. It says “She’s the only one who knows Caroline is her half-sister”, referring to Sela as the “she”. By my understanding, there was never a point that Sela knew but Caroline and the rest of her family didn’t–all of them simultaneously found out when they received the result of the DNA test, didn’t they? It was never a secret from any of the main characters.
A Million Reasons Why will be available on March 23, 2021. Many thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing me with a free eARC in exchange for an honest review.