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The Charm Bracelet


The Charm Bracelet

THE CHARM BRACELET is the impressive debut novel of memoirist Wade Rouse, who took the nom de plume of his beloved maternal grandmother, Viola Shipman. Viola wore a charm bracelet, and that bracelet --- along with the stories and memories behind the charms --- gave Wade a great starting point for his first work of fiction.

The story is centered on the small resort town of Scoops, Michigan, where Lolly, the matriarch of the Lindsey family, resides. Lolly is now 70 and still works at Dolly's Sweet Shop, where she stirs the huge pot of fudge in the storefront window. She also entertains the tourists --- called "fudgies" by Scoops residents --- as Dolly, her alter ego, dons costumes, including a feather boa, to sing (what else?) "Hello, Dolly." Lolly is every bit as memorable as Dolly the entertainer is. She's known all over town for her outlandish wigs, bright makeup, lively spirit and spontaneity.

"THE CHARM BRACELET is a charming novel (no pun intended) about family and what matters most. That this story of three generations of women was written by a man makes it all the more fascinating and believable."

Lolly lives alone and rarely sees her daughter and granddaughter, who lead busy lives just a few hours away in Chicago. Arden, a serious, driven divorcee and the online editor of a celebrity magazine, is the opposite of Lolly. Long ago, she abandoned the book she was writing to deal with practical matters, like earning a living and supporting daughter Lauren through her studies at Northwestern. She seems to have lost her sense of fun. Lauren loves painting and is quite talented, but she changed her major from art to business when she secretly discovered her mother's financial problems. Though Dolly lives in a world of reality seasoned with a huge dose of fun and dreaming, both Arden and Lauren are pursuing strictly practical goals.

Dolly has just sent Arden and Lauren notes, each enclosed with a charm, asking them to visit when they can. They’re considering doing just that when Arden receives a phone call from the owner of Dolly's Sweet Shop, informing her that Lolly is sometimes missing shifts and her behavior seems a bit "off," even for Lolly. Arden and Lauren arrive unannounced, surprising and delighting Lolly. But they are surprised and definitely not delighted when they enter Lolly's cabin and see that Post-it notes seem to decorate the inside. On them are terse messages reminding Lolly of daily tasks that she is apparently forgetting, such as "Get milk!" "Take a bath!" "Always put keys in basket by fridge!"

A thorough examination by the doctor reveals that Lolly is suffering from MCI --- mild cognitive impairment. There is no cure, as it is often part of the aging process. Sometimes it is the forerunner of dementia, sometimes not. To keep Lolly independently living at home, a geriatric nurse will visit and oversee medications and nutrition, and help keep Lolly's memory functioning as well as possible for as long as possible. The nurse turns out to be a gentle and kind man named Jake, who develops an interest in Lauren.

To keep Lolly's memory active, she is encouraged to share her stories with her family while she still can. Each reminiscence begins with a charm on her bracelet, and many charms equal many stories. Both Arden and Lauren are learning family history that was either new to them or they had been too preoccupied to listen to in the past. Lolly has a huge memory bank full of interesting deposits/stories: the loon charm and what it means to love; the snowflake charm, which means that each of us is unique, since no two snowflakes are alike; and more charms --- a kite, a shooting star, a sewing machine --- each of which is a piece of the Lindsey family's past.

THE CHARM BRACELET is a charming novel (no pun intended) about family and what matters most. That this story of three generations of women was written by a man makes it all the more fascinating and believable.

Reviewed by Carole Turner on March 22, 2016

The Charm Bracelet
by Viola Shipman

  • Publication Date: January 3, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: A Thomas Dunne Book for St. Martin's Griffin
  • ISBN-10: 125007133X
  • ISBN-13: 9781250071330