**This review first appeared on Novel Crossing. See original post here**
He made himself an island until something unexpected washed ashore.When Holton lost his wife, Adele, in a freak accident, he shut himself off from the world, living a life of seclusion, making drifwood sculptures and drowning his pain in gin. Until twenty-three-year-old Libby knocks on his door, asking for a job and claiming to be a friend of his late wife. When he discovers Libby is actually his late wife’s illegitimate daughter, given up for adoption without his knowledge, his life is turned upside down as he struggles to accept that the wife he’d given saint status to was not the woman he thought he knew. Together Holton and Libby form an unlikely bond as the two struggle to learn the identity of Libby’s father and the truth about Adele, themselves, and each other.
Some authors I read to to be entertained, others for the thrill of adventure or the intrigue of suspense. Then there are the authors that make me feel, contemplate the messiness of life and the lessons of hardship. Gina Holmes is an author in the company of the latter category. She made me weep along with terminally ill Jenny Lucas in Crossing Oceans, cower and rage with domestically abused Penny Carson in Wings of Glass, and hope for reconciliation with Eric Yoshida in Dry as Rain. Her latest novel, Driftwood Tides, continues in her strength at examining the breaking points in life and the fruit of dysfunction.
Libby Slater never thought that a simple genetic testing in preparation for her impending marriage would shatter the core of her identity. A daughter of privilege who has grown to resent the confining world of appearance and prestige, she is shaken by the revelation that her haughty and impassive mother and the man who abandoned them are not actually her parents. Libby’s quest for answers and belonging brings her to the threshold of a man consumed by misery and alcoholism. Unfortunately for Libby, he is the only one who can give her answers about the mother she never knew.
Holton, a talented driftwood sculptor, lost his will to live when his wife Adele tragically passed in a freak car accident. His self destructive behavior and affinity for gin find him on the brink of death when Libby appears on his doorstep. There is something vaguely familiar about her and she claims to be a friend of his late wife, so he agrees to take her on as a summer intern. Libby’s eventual revelation that she is Adele’s daughter catapults Holton through an emotional upheaval exacerbated by his dependence on alcohol. After hitting rock bottom, he agrees to pull his life together and forges a bond with Libby as they try to navigate this new found connection and identity crisis.
The symbolism employed by Gina Holmes is unmistakable and moving. Like the battered driftwood that he transforms into beautiful art, Holton has weathered storms with devastating circumstances. In the midst of his grief he is given another reason to hope and allow his life to be reshaped by the Creator into a beautiful testament. Similarly, Libby for the first time, is experiencing what it feels to be loved and cherished by a parent without fear of disappointing.
Driftwood Tides is a contemplative story of forgiveness, redemption and second chances that is heralded by a cast of complex and riveting characters. Gina Holmes’ continues to amaze with her perceptive analysis in to the human psyche and spiritual awakening, in a way that brings readers to the blurry border between reality and fiction.