Lucina’s Letters: Barbara Francesca Murphy

Published by Austin Macauly Publishers, 2022, 222 pages.

Three girls playing in a forest are pestered by a young boy. When they cannot get rid of him, they throw him into a nearby river to teach him a lesson. They expect him to crawl out, repentant. But the boy drowns. When the girls realize they have killed him, they swear never to tell anyone.

The girls—Sam, Lora and Grace—grow up, and their guilty secret eats away at them. Sam tries to control everything in her life, including her relationships, and refuses to let anyone get too close to her. Lora has a family of her own but is dealing with anger and compensates by overeating. Grace is terrified that her beloved son will be taken away from her as punishment for her crime and is therefore overprotective of him.

The drowned boy, Ewan, was no stranger to the girls: he was Grace’s brother, and Sam and Lora’s cousin. Ewan’s mother Rosie is devastated by his death. She cannot move beyond her grief and completely neglects Grace.

Rosie has a half-sister, Lucina, the eldest in the family. Lucina is the centre of the family, the person to whom Rosie and her siblings turn when things go wrong.

Lucina, now settled in Italy, finds out the truth about Ewan’s death. She decides that the only way to heal the wounds is to bring the truth out into the open. But Lucina is unwell and knows that she does not have much time left. So she writes a letter to the family, exposing not only what the girls did but the other secrets that the family has been hiding, including a daughter who self-harms and a sister who is desperate for a child.

After Lucina dies, the clan is summoned to her home in Italy, where the letter is read out to them. Will it destroy or heal them?

This is a family saga in the making, the sort of book that needs more time to develop. I would have liked the characters and their stories to be more fleshed out. It took me a while to remember all the characters—there is a list at the beginning, but it is incomplete. A family tree would have been helpful.

What really detracts from the book are the typos in the second half. It felt like the proofreading was rushed towards the end, which is a pity.

I enjoy stories in which the past seeps into the present (family secrets, in other words!). The plot of Lucina’s Letters is interesting and could merit more space.

Buy from UK / USA

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