To anyone from the outside looking in, Serena Soltanis appeared to have the perfect family. For 18 years she lived every moment to please and follow the will of her husband, Nick, and her two daughters, Tristan and Max (short for Maxine). When she drops off 16-year-old Tristan at her summer job, she doesn't think the day will be any different than in the past. It turns out though that Tristan never reported to work. Her disappearance sets off a panic search with the police and even a private eye that Nick hires to find her.
Like a fine chef who slowly peels an onion, skilled writer Nancy Rue reveals to the reader the imperfections and problems of the Soltanis family. Tristan is living a secret life --- appearing to be the perfect daughter, yet whenever she can slip out of their view she flirts and spends time with a renegade lifeguard, Ricky Zabriski. One day Tristan and Ricky take off for a life on their own. Instead of a kidnapping situation, the status of the Soltanis's search for their daughter changes to a runaway child. While looking for Tristan, Serena begins a journey that teaches her a great deal about herself, as well as a more realistic picture of her family. In addition, she gains a new appreciation for God's care and grace in everyday life.
Interwoven into this runaway plot are some rich characters, such as Aunt Pete, Nick's elderly aunt who is living with the Soltanis family. Although Nick treats her as if she isn't all there mentally, this elderly woman actually is much wiser and more involved with the children than Nick or Serena have known. When Serena is trying to understand her daughter, Aunt Pete says, "That's the prayer I think you oughta pray. Pray for the good Lord to bridge the gap between what Tristan needs and what you have to give her. And then you give all you have." These words of prayer hold profound meaning for every parent. Another rich character in the story is Hazel, a former biker mom whom Serena meets when she is leading a group for mothers at her church. Hazel has a completely different view of life and the circumstances happening to Serena. When Nick follows his own private search for his daughter, Serena finds support in local police detective Ed Malone, a single man who has a huge heart for people who are hurting. Malone accompanies Serena to Baltimore and helps her navigate the seedy area of the city in hopes of finding Tristan.
When Serena looks in Tristan's room, she discovers a few hints about her daughter's perspective from some hidden poems. Following her own motherly instincts and the words of poetry, Serena embarks on her own multi-city search.
Author Nancy Rue has assembled a rich storyline that will touch on your emotions in a surprising way. This gripping page-turner will keep you spellbound right through to the novel's final words.
Reviewed by W. Terry Whailin on May 16, 2006