Reviewed by Kathie Smith

Alabaster Houses is the story of two very different women and the unlikely bond they establish. Jane Pepper, an editor at a small publishing house, shows up on the doorstep of renowned human rights photographer Riva Hakim in hopes of finding a cure for her daughter Amy’s leukemia.

Jane, recently separated from her husband after Amy’s death, is struggling with her grief and guilt while trying to maintain a semblance of normality for her son Nick. Riva is writing a memoir of her life as a famous photographer and human rights advocate. When Riva unexpectedly contacts Jane in an effort to learn more about her former husband, who is also Amy’s father, they develop a connection that indirectly helps them both come to terms with their pasts.

Jane’s story is told in the present while Riva’s life is told through what appear to be excerpts from her memoir. The changes between voices are sudden, but the transitions are not awkward. Readers will likely root for Rita since the struggles of her life are revealed; however, Jane’s clouded emotional state is brilliantly depicted by making her a less developed and somewhat unsympathetic character. Direct interaction between Jane and Riva is sparse, but the importance of their relationship is made clear as Jane works as Riva’s editor.

Alabaster Houses is an interesting and engaging novel. After just a few pages, readers will not stop until the truth of Jane’s guilt is revealed and the story of Riva’s life is complete. The novel ends with the promise of resolution for both women while leaving the details of the future uncertain. This ending continues the established portrayal of life’s uncertainty and will leave readers fully satisfied.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Kathie is a writer, wife, mother and volunteer living in the beautiful Appalachian mountains. Her passion for the written word is fulfilled by creating her own fictional work, freelancing, acting as an adviser to another author, and reading with her six year old daughter.

Review copies were provided free of any obligation by Lara McLaughlin. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.