Windfall by Penny Vincenzi

Although she’d given up quite a bit for her family, Cassia had felt fairly content with her life. She has a lovely family, a husband who is a respected, community doctor, and she is even allowed to assist him once in awhile in his practice. What she doesn’t often acknowledge, even to herself, is how much she’s missed practicing medicine herself, after having trained at the same medical school as her husband. But now that she’s inherited quite a large sum of money from her beloved godmother, perhaps now she can make something of her education. Perhaps now she can realize some of the dreams she has had for herself. How this plays out seems to have a ripple effect, for her family and for the many people she cares about and who care about her.

In my opinion, this author, Penny Vincenzi, is a master craftswoman. She has a gift of being able to create an entire community of fully developed characters with whom we become intimately connected, interweave their stories so that they tie together but also function as engaging subplots, and all while keeping each character and story solidly lucid and memorable in and of themselves. It is not heavy descriptives or overwhelming detail that keep the characters clear and identifiable, but our own emotional commitment to each of them because of their deeply human feel. We are compelled to know what comes next because they feel as tactile as we do, we need to know because they become our family, our friends. We feel almost a part of the intricately woven plot, that we are almost a part of the fabric of their lives. We are vulnerable to the suspense, the sharp dialogue, the exotic scenes, and most poignantly, the human emotions the novel elicits.

There is also a theme of fighting convention by the many strong women herein. Women were just starting to battle against the norm of having to stay home and care for children as their only option – and at the same time they were also starting to rebel against the presumption that they, in fact, had to have children at all. Contraception was just then becoming a possibility, which liberated women from the burden of just being baby factories. At one point, Harry, a very complex character with whom Cassia has a very complicated relationship, laments that he is forever destined to be attracted to very strong women. As it happens, most of the women in this novel are strong, each in their own ways.

If you’re looking for a fun, substantive read – a truly healthy addiction because you will not be able to put this one down! – this is the novel for you!


The Best of Times by Penny Vincenzi

A complicated motor vehicle accident involving a “lorry” (semi) and many cars is the focal point of this novel.  We learn a bit about each of the characters that are involved as a prelude to the accident, and then it happens, sort of in slow motion, almost as they experience it.   But it is the aftermath that carries each story line (and there are many that intertwine).  The accident complicates and devastates, but in some ways revives and empowers.  In every case, it changes the course of each of the lives of those involved in it.

There are quite a few characters, but the author does a wonderful job of endearing each of them to the reader, such that it is easy to keep track and stay interested in each of their trajectories.  And transitions are particularly smooth.    And because there are so many different story lines, the book never, ever gets dull.  Honestly,  a few of the characters are so charming and feel so real that by the end you’d like to invite them over for tea!

This is an utterly delightful novel that I very highly recommend!