Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: What Could Be Saved, by Liese O'Halloran Schwarz {ends 1/20}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

It was abruptly obvious to Laura, what she and everyone usually managed to forget: Life was a sucking cornucopia of loss, everyone teetered unwittingly on its edge all the time. All the precious things at risk every moment, childhoods and pink pigs and best friends, lovers and brothers and parents and children, whole lives and histories perpetually rushing into the ravenous funnel of oblivion. It wasn’t possible to cherish them enough before they were taken away.

The Preston family was never what they thought they were. As all five members of the family changed, grew, disappeared, and came back, they all kept trying to define themselves and their relationships to the world, but how much was really true, and how much was just what they tried to prove to everyone else?

Official synopsis:
Washington, DC, 2019: Laura Preston is a reclusive artist at odds with her older sister Bea as their elegant, formidable mother slowly slides into dementia. When a stranger contacts Laura claiming to be her brother who disappeared forty years earlier when the family lived in Bangkok, Laura ignores Bea’s warnings of a scam and flies to Thailand to see if it can be true. But meeting him in person leads to more questions than answers.

Bangkok, 1972: Genevieve and Robert Preston live in a beautiful house behind a high wall, raising their three children with the help of a cadre of servants. In these exotic surroundings, Genevieve strives to create a semblance of the life they would have had at home in the US—ballet and riding classes for the children, impeccable dinner parties, a meticulously kept home. But in truth, Robert works for American intelligence, Genevieve finds herself drawn into a passionate affair with her husband’s boss, and their serene household is vulnerable to unseen dangers in a rapidly changing world and a country they don’t really understand.

Alternating between past and present as all of the secrets are revealed,
What Could Be Saved is an unforgettable novel about a family shattered by loss and betrayal, and the beauty that can exist even in the midst of brokenness.

The Preston family could have been anyone. One year in Thailand sounded like an adventure for Genevieve and the three kids, while Robert built a dam. But the one year turned into two, then three, and they were all restless. How long did a dam take to build? Genevieve wanted to stop playing hostess to all the new Americans living in Thailand. Then suddenly they’re on their way home, because their son has disappeared, and she travels back to Thailand over and over, looking for the boy she hasn’t seen since he was 8 years old.

Decades later, Genevieve’s grasp with reality is tenuous as she slips into dementia. She’s followed leads that she hoped would lead to her son Philip again and again, but nothing has brought him back to her so far. Now she doesn’t look for him, but a woman has reached out to Philip’s youngest sister Laura to say that Philip is an adult with nowhere to go in Thailand.

In the process of alternating between 1972 and 2019 (with a little 1980 thrown in), this book also gave us differing viewpoints of the lives of the Prestons. Who Genevieve was in 1972 couldn’t have done anything different, and everything that happened in Thailand changed the whole relationship of Laura and oldest sister Bea, even when neither of them realized it. The most remarkable character of all was Philip, and his sense of peace with everything that had happened in the life that was never planned for him. Bringing him back into the fold really helped share that sense of peace (and sometimes clarity) with the rest of the remaining family.

Overall, this was a remarkable book, beautifully told. The author’s background info states that she as well spent part of her childhood in Thailand, and the sincerity and childhood impressions of that experience really come through. I’d give this book 5 out of 5 stars and will definitely seek out the author’s previous books. While I’d never call this a fast read, I would enthusiastically recommend it to those who enjoy literary fiction and stories about family relationships.

Liz's note: I believe this is Becki's first 5-star review!

Click here to purchase.

Becki Bayley is an adult, who just searched for what adulting means. Adulting, apparently, is just searching how to do stuff. This fits her experiences so far. Check out more adulting posts at


Two of my lucky readers will win a copy of What Could Be Saved!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Wednesday, January 20th, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be contacted via email the next day and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner(s) will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

What Could Be Saved, by Liese O'Halloran Schwarz


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