It has been 20 years since Julia MacDonnell wrote her first novel, A Year of Favor. But readers will find her highly entertaining and heartfelt second novel, Mimi Malloy, at Last!, well worth the wait.
At 68, Mimi Malloy finds herself divorced, forced into early retirement and spending her days fending off check-in phone calls from her six daughters and four surviving sisters. Having lost her husband to a much younger secretary, she bides her time in her Quincy apartment drinking Manhattans, listening to Frank Sinatra and puffing away on True Blue cigarettes. Her eldest daughter, Cassandra, is adamant that her mother needs to be placed in an assisted-living home. Despite Mimi’s recent “spells” of forgetting things (like how to start her car) and a MRI showing that she’s got the atrophied brain of an 86-year-old, Mimi stubbornly claims that she is just fine on her own.
Then Mimi finds herself at the center of a grandson’s genealogy project. Packed to the brim with repressed memories from a traumatic childhood, Mimi refuses to outline her Irish ancestry or explore her Depression-era upbringing. But when she discovers an antique pendant that had once belonged to her mother, Mimi takes the first tenuous step down an extremely crowded memory lane. Bit by bit, she unveils the secrets that she has struggled to hide: a mother who died in childbirth, a secret sister sent away to Ireland and an abusive stepmother.
With the help of her sisters, Mimi slowly begins to piece together the mystery behind the disappearance of their beloved sister Fagan. In the background is a budding friendship between Mimi and her widowed superintendent, Dick Duffy.
MacDonnell truly shines in creating a cast of unforgettable characters who struggle to forgive each other, spinning a story that recalls The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, though with a bit more of an edge. Mimi Malloy, at Last! will ensnare readers with its human drama and fascinating references to Irish folklore—even as the vulnerable and brassy Mimi Malloy steals their hearts.