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The Favorite Daughter


The Favorite Daughter

On what Lena Donohue thought would be one of the happiest days of her life, she experienced something entirely different. While trying to find her sister (and maid of honor) Hallie, she spotted a man and a woman kissing. She smiled at the thought of another couple so in love on her wedding day, but then stopped, surprised, as she realized she knew them. Standing there in her wedding gown and veil, the bride-to-be saw her fiancé Walter and her beloved sister locked in an embrace. Lena was betrayed by the two people she loved most in the world, and her heart was broken twice over.

So Lena fled. She left her wedding, her family and her lifelong home in Watersend, South Carolina. She became Colleen Donohue of New York City, a successful travel writer and owner of a lovely loft in a remodeled old church, who kept romance at arms’ length.

"Read Patti Callahan Henry’s lovely novel for this story of redemption, restoration and hope in the face of disease and impending loss. It’s the perfect book to spend time with this summer."

For 10 years, Colleen avoids her family, South Carolina and committed relationships with the opposite sex. She also refuses to talk to her sister, since six months after the canceled wedding, Hallie married Walter and the couple settled in nearby Savannah. Colleen talks occasionally with her father, Gavin, and her brother, Shane, who ask her frequently to return to the Lowcountry for a visit (which she regularly declines). She has spent years deflecting the family’s requests for her to come back and ignoring her sister’s emails, texts and repeated efforts for contact. Her new life has had many benefits, but her heart is still every bit as broken as it was on the day of her wrecked wedding.

However, Colleen’s resolve crumbles when Shane calls to tell her that they’re afraid their father’s sudden memory issues aren’t just a result of aging but something much more ominous: early-onset Alzheimer’s. Shane, who runs the Donohue family pub in town alongside Gavin, has discovered months of mortgage payments not made; the same joke told over and over, unknowingly, within an hour’s time; forgotten names; and stove burners left on unattended. The Donohues need Colleen back home, and this time she’s finally going to return. Her memories are just as conflicted and painful as they were, while her father is losing his own.

Shane and Hallie have decided to do something that just might help Gavin hang on to his most precious memories. With Colleen’s help, they will create a memory book of photos and stories of their father’s life, with the travel writer’s interviews of family and friends to stitch all the memories together. It’s a wonderful idea, but the only downside is that Colleen has to finally face her sister again.

It doesn’t go well. Both are deeply hurt: Colleen by Hallie’s betrayal, and Hallie by the subsequent years of Colleen’s rejections. Hallie tries to taunt Colleen into telling her how awful she had been. And eventually she does. But the pain is eased and reconciliation begins, little by little.

However, a mystery has surfaced. The events of the Donohue family, and the timeline the siblings had grown up knowing, don’t seem quite right. There are photos with strangers, some of them in Ireland; elderly friends of their parents telling them things they’ve never heard before; and the puzzle of their family history seems to be missing some significant pieces. And with Gavin losing his own memory so rapidly, this may be the only time the three will ever have these mysteries explained and discover their own identities in the process.

Memory shapes us. The joys and sorrows, the exhilarating and heartbreaking moments, compose and comprise the individuals we become. So what happens when the pieces of life, held together in memory, begin to disappear? Read Patti Callahan Henry’s lovely novel for this story of redemption, restoration and hope in the face of disease and impending loss. It’s the perfect book to spend time with this summer. You will fall in love with the Donohues and wish the very best for each wonderful member of this family, even for Hallie.

Reviewed by Melanie Reynolds on June 14, 2019

The Favorite Daughter
by Patti Callahan Henry

  • Publication Date: June 4, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley
  • ISBN-10: 0399583130
  • ISBN-13: 9780399583131