Relative Strangers by Paula Garner first captured my interest with the fascinating plot described in the flap copy (below) — but it was the complex story and captivating characters that kept me invested in this beautiful book.
Eighteen-year-old Jules has always wished for a close-knit family. She never knew her father, and her ex-addict mother has always seemed more interested in artistic endeavors than in bonding with her only daughter. Jules’s life and future look as flat and unchanging as her small Illinois town. Then a simple quest to find a baby picture for the senior yearbook leads to an earth-shattering discovery: for most of the first two years of her life, Jules lived in foster care. Reeling from feelings of betrayal and with only the flimsiest of clues, Jules sets out to learn the truth about her past. What she finds is a wonderful family who loved her as their own and hoped to adopt her — including a now-adult foster brother who is overjoyed to see his sister again. But as her feelings for him spiral into a devastating, catastrophic crush — and the divide between Jules and her mother widens — Jules finds herself on the brink of losing everything.
This book is both heartbreaking and beautifully written. I absolutely loved Jules’ story, and seeing her growth throughout the course of the book — but also the growth of other characters, like her mother, her friends, and her foster brother, really made for a rewarding experience. You feel for these characters and their situation.
Relative Strangers is definitely a character-driven story, and Garner has done an excellent job conceiving of these individuals and bringing them to life. As a reader, I felt truly invested in their story — and emotionally, felt nearly as conflicted as Jules herself. It’s heartbreaking, yes. But also hopeful and uplifting and sad and beautiful and so, so lovely.
This book redefines what it means to love and be a family. Look for Relative Strangers in stores tomorrow.