“The Sins of the Mother”: a Danielle Steel Book Review.

During my vacation I decided to randomly pick a book off my brother-in-law’s shelf to read. I was only drawn to it because of the author – Danielle Steel – whose hard cover novel was the first I ever read before I was even 10 years of age. Titled Full Circle, it was given to me by my mom, made a huge impression on me back then and I never forgave my friend who failed to return it, haha.   Anyways, seeing the book brought back nostalgic memories and I grabbed it and put it in my bag.

SYNOPSIS

As usual, Danielle Steel’s book is published in huge print which makes it very legible, and her literal skills are simple enough for anyone to understand and connect to (which is why I could read and understand it even as a little kid,  I suppose. No genius in that!).

Olivia is a woman who has built a multimillion empire from her low-cost, high-quality furniture business. Her husband who built it alongside her knows that she is the arrowhead of the company and so lets her take charge while he takes the back seat handling the finances as Chief Financial Officer and helping Olivia’s mother raise their 4 children. The cost of this sacrifice is high: Olivia hardly ever spends time with her family, even though her relationship with her husband and mother remain devotedly strong. She misses out on her children’s lives, and is even absent when her husband eventually dies. Her children – in one way or the other – cannot forgive her ambitious nature, even though they have lived a life of luxury.  Over the years she tries to make it up to them with fancy annual vacations and gifts.

As life usually does, the very issues they find wrong with their mother becomes their own as they discover themselves being caught up in situations which in the end, force them to view their mother with a more human and understanding perspective.

Phillip the first child has taken over his father’s role as Chief Financial Officer of the company. He is angry at his mother’s absence during his childhood despite her efforts to make it up to them in their later years. Even though he has fond memories of his father and grandmother, Phillip chooses not to have children with his wife – Amanda – who is as ambitious as but lacks Olivia’s affection and has no desire for love and relationships. He also discovers his mother’s discreet affair with another and uses it to fuel his anger, assuming she may have been unfaithful to his late father. Phillip sees his wife’s coldness as a romantic challenge but very soon discovers that her love for power and wealth knows no bounds, even if it means overthrowing his mother as CEO. This harsh realization finds him stumbling into an affair of his own which leads to a divorce from his wife.

Liz didn’t make many good choices growing up and as a struggling writer, her two daughters from two marriages are her only achievements. Liz is always comparing herself to her successful family and so finds it very difficult to connect to her creative side. It takes her mother’s trust and encouragement to finally risk another attempt at publishing, and the results go beyond what both of them ever imagined.

John has always wanted to be an artist, but instead takes the role of Chief of Design in the company. His simple lifestyle rejects the luxury he once enjoyed as child, and he and his professor wife raise their son Alex who is almost oblivious of the legacy he is born into. Olivia’s only crime is that she is too rich, but their son is very close to her and wants to work with her in the future. Worse of all is that he announces that he is gay, which crashes his parent’s trophy boy fantasy. Olivia’s closeness to Alex and her strong support of his individuality, causes his parents not only to accept him as he really is, but also encourages John to do same and embrace is true calling as an artist.

Cass is the last of the four children and was born rebellious. After their father dies in Olivia’s absence she divorces herself from her family and their empire, setting another for herself as one of the world’s best music producers. Her anger at their mother burns for almost forever, until the death of their grandmother brings her home. Even though she has sworn she will never have children as well, she ultimately finds herself pregnant and her mother’s support brings them closer, healing the rift that existed for over a decade.

***

THE CONNECTION

My father worked as a banker for 35 years. He started from the bottom and rose to very considerable levels, until he retired. He however spent lots of time away from the family because he worked in various states around the country and at a time, overseas. By the time he nested at home we had become our own individuals and it was harder for our personalities to ‘blend’ with his. The nature of his career coupled with my experience during a 3-month internship in the bank, made me promise myself to never work as a banker – especially if I wanted a nurturing relationship with my family. And you know me, I’m a relationship kinda gal! 😉

I can relate to Olivia’s children, but it was also made me come to terms to the fact that as a parent, you will always want the best for your child, even if it means making hard choices. These choices may not seem right to the child and may even become the reason for the rift, but it doesn’t change the fact that you did what you thought was best at that point in time.  I have over the years come to accept my dad’s absence as the sacrifice he took for us, to give us a better future.  As an adult I cannot continue to blame him for decisions he took years ago. At this point in time I should be thinking about how I want my own life to turn out and how I want my relationship with my kids to be like.

So, as a parent, how do you strike a balance between financially securing a child’s future and emotionally satisfying a child’s needs? Are you willing to do everything and anything to make a sure a child lacks nothing – risking estrangement in the future, or are you willing to let go of that great paying job or contract to make it to your child’s birthday, or school recital/open day/graduation? There is no right answer, that is what makes it a choice. Remember though that you must be willing to accept the consequences. You could be lucky and your child will forever extol the sacrifices you made on his/her behalf, or it could turn the other way round. It’s  your choice!

Another thing I’ve experienced and connected with in this book is about being judgmental.  I’ve discovered that the moment you set out pointing fingers at another for some fault he has committed, you may very soon find yourself in the same situation and acting probably worse than the accused.  This has happened to me and it was a very humbling experience.  Since then I’ve been very careful to judge people. You should too.  We are all humans living life once.  If we had lived before, we would’ve had the wisdom to do better, but we haven’t and so we make mistakes along the way.  We need to to be more considerate of people and even though we know what they have done is wrong, we are in no place to judge. We can only guide, pray for or totally avoid that person altogether.

That’s it! I hope you enjoyed this review and will take out time to read a paperback or two once in a while.  The e-books we have these days just don’t have the same feeling!

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