True Placesby Published 01 Jan 2019
|Publisher||Lake Union Publishing|
A girl emerges from the woods, starved, ill, and alone…and collapses.
Suzanne Blakemore hurtles along the Blue Ridge Parkway, away from her overscheduled and completely normal life, and encounters the girl. As Suzanne rushes her to the hospital, she never imagines how the encounter will change her—a change she both fears and desperately needs.
Suzanne has the perfect house, a successful husband, and a thriving family. But beneath the veneer of an ideal life, her daughter is rebelling, her son is withdrawing, her husband is oblivious to it all, and Suzanne is increasingly unsure of her place in the world. After her discovery of the ethereal sixteen-year-old who has never experienced civilization, Suzanne is compelled to invite Iris into her family’s life and all its apparent privileges.
But Iris has an independence, a love of solitude, and a discomfort with materialism that contrasts with everything the Blakemores stand for—qualities that awaken in Suzanne first a fascination, then a longing. Now Suzanne can’t help but wonder: Is she destined to save Iris, or is Iris the one who will save her?
True Places Reviews
Look for my Q&A Elevator Ride with Author, Sonja Yoerg coming Jan 1, 2019! An exclusive “behind the scenes” look behind TRUE PLACES and some fun facts about the author and her latest book. Plus learn what is coming next!
Sonja Yoerg returns following All The Best People (2017) with her best yet! TRUE PLACES is moving, emotionally charged and beautifully written story with lyrical prose and tons of heart and soul—discovering our true place in life.
For every woman who feels overwhelmed, unappreciated, and has lost a little of herself along the way due to marriage, family, motherhood, and career choices. A road to self-discovery. Readers you will adore the unexpected relationship between Suzanne and Iris!
Often it takes a stranger to put us back on the correct path and find our true place.
Set in the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains (your stress level drops just looking at the stunning cover). If you have ever been to the Virginia Mountains, it is just as breathtaking.
Readers are introduced to Suzanne and Whit Blackmore, parents of two teens, Brynn and Reid. We also meet Suzanne’s mother Tinsley (self-absorbed and needy). On the outside this looks like a happy family; however, there is much lacking.
Suzanne is a very busy mother and has no time to barely breathe. (we all have been there). She is overwhelmed and needs an escape. One afternoon she takes a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway. She will drive. Clear her head. Escape. She thinks of all the deadlines and things she must do; however, for a moment this will be hers. No cell service, no texts, and no little bar. (Seems like heaven, right)?
Soon she spots a young girl all alone along one of the overlooks, near the wooden railroad tracks, running parallel to the road. The girl looks alone and terrified. All she can say is, “mama.” She only has a backpack with some essential items to survive outdoors. Where is her family?
The young girl looks sick and since Suzanne has no cell phone service, she decides to take the girl to the nearest hospital. The girl goes in and out of consciousness. Suzanne is drawn to this young girl. She makes a life-changing decision.
Of course, no one in her family can understand why she becomes involved with this homeless girl. Everyone is questioning her in her own family. A woman already extended. However, this young girl named Iris may just be what Suzanne need to find her true self and at the same time a guardian angel for her.
Suzanne takes Iris into their home (and her heart) when she leaves the hospital. However, how will this family (one that is so different) be able to handle a young girl who lived in the woods, without all the social interaction?
A simple life and one not filled with materialistic things. The dad and the teen daughter are especially materialist. They will have more problems versus Suzanne and Reid, which are more down to earth.
We also flashback to 1995 when Suzanne and Whit met and her own childhood. How do choices she made years ago get her to the place she is now? She put her own life on hold to care for her husband’s career and her own family.
“Giving too little, giving too much. Subtracting from here, adding there. Caring for your marriage, your children, your parents, your reputation, your future, and if you could manage it, your younger, more idealistic self. This complex calculus was based on theories of love and motherhood, and equations of duty and self-worth. . . She wanted a balanced life but had only guesses, wishes, and fears when what she needed was answers.”
There is a mystery surrounding Iris. What happened to her family? Her dad (disappearance), mother (recently deceased), and little brother Ash (appears to be a mystery). A police investigation. A social worker. Suzanne begins to do more digging on her own.
In the meantime, there is a war going on in their household with the tension of Iris joining their household. Iris and Suzanne seem to have developed a strong bond. Suzanne is drawn to her and her simple way of life. However, people do not want you to lead a simple life. They think this way is strange. Iris is drawn back to woods.
Suzanne must continue to defend herself and Iris. Can Iris survive in this new environment? Can Suzanne continue to survive, living as she has been or is there something new on the horizon which will change all their lives? Being true to one’s self.
I loved TRUE PLACES!
Yoerg is in her element from the setting (her own backyard) to the complex family dynamics. Thought-provoking, filled with lush scenery, beautiful botanical imagery, themes, strong metaphors, life lessons, and many takeaways. The relation between nature, animals, and humans. Each can be beautiful and dangerous at the same time.
Character-driven, the author does an outstanding job with the teen language and each character’s distinct voice. Many readers will relate and adore the ending. I enjoyed the relationship with plants, healing, and modern medicine. I survive on an organic plant-based diet and use herbal teas and plants for healing, taking no prescription drugs.
On a side note: There is a project in NC, I consulted with several years ago which strongly reminds me of this story. It offers the setting of a simple life. The property managers told me of the history of the project which is fascinating. Located in the mountains of NC (Flat Rock) —with a combination of vacation rentals, condos, old mill, B&B, and small village little town; old farmhouses, tree swings, porches, lake, mill surrounded by farm animals, and organic gardens, with fresh eggs delivered to your door. It allows your children or grandchildren to get the feel of farm simple living. I was there one week and it snowed. It was like a Hallmark movie scene!
TRUE PLACES is a mix of Delia Owens Where the Crawdads Sing, Kristin Hannah The Great Alone, works of Jodi Picoult, and Rochelle B. Weinstein’s Somebody’s Daughter combined with Sonja Yoerg’ s own winning signature style.
With the author’s own background to draw from plus her love of nature and gardening, her passion is reflected throughout each page. You will find yourself bookmarking many pages and beautiful phrases.
TRUE PLACES reminds me of a time I was visiting in NC, dealing with my elderly parents— I took off one afternoon and drove to Virginia and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Even though I did not meet a young lady, it clears your mind and fills you with peace, and a renewed spirit. I also have fond memories as a child and roadside picnics along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Top Books of 2019 List
Jan 2019 Must-Read Books
A special thank you to the author, Lake Union, and #NetGalley for an advanced reading copy. (The hardcover is stunning and a "must" for your home library collection)
Read My Reviews (each has been 5 Stars).
TRUE PLACES (2019)
ALL THE BEST PEOPLE (2017)
THE MIDDLE OF SOMEWHERE (9/2015)
HOUSE BROKEN (1/2015)
4.5 stars rounded to 5 stars
What a beautiful story. I have now read all four of Ms. Yoerg’s books, and she never fails to deliver a well-written tale with significant depth.
This one focuses on Suzanne, a housewife and mother who is doing the best she can to keep her dysfunctional family rolling on. Her co-protagonist is Iris, a teenager who has lived her whole life in the Blue Ridge Mountains without ever experiencing a “modern” lifestyle. How these two come together and help each other handle their pasts and discover a better way of life is the crux of the story.
Having grown up near the foothills of the Smoky Mountains I loved the Blue Ridge Mountain area setting in Virginia. I believe this is home territory for the author. Her descriptions brought back those mountain sounds and smells to me. Gee I miss all the times I spent with my family in the mountains of the southeast Tennessee. I understand Ms. Yoerg is also an avid gardener and plant lover, and her knowledge of the flora of the mountains in her area is clearly demonstrated in True Places. Her descriptive imagery is lovely.
There is a lot going on in True Places, but Ms. Yoerg keeps us on track. There are issues between Suzanne and her parents, her husband, and her children despite her efforts to keep things moving as smoothly as possible. Each of her two children have problems, and poor Iris is having a hard time without her family and trying to assimilate into “the real world.” At one point I wondered how all of this could possibly be resolved. I liked the way the author brought things together at the end, though I wished the resolution had been drawn out a little more, hence the withholding of half a star.
I must commend the artist responsible for the cover and the author for a perfect title. Not only does the title sum up the story in two words, it is intriguing and original in this age of so many similar (and oh so tired) titles. My first impressions of a book are almost always based on the cover and the title, and this one hauled me in like a mega magnet.
I felt for the realistically drawn characters, especially Suzanne, Iris, and Reid. I was pleased Ms. Yoerg didn’t fluff things up with a “perfect”, and thus unrealistic, ending. I would love to visit this family again in ten years to see how things all worked out for them, but at the same time I’m glad the author elected not to have an epilogue. Despite it feeling a tad rushed, the denouement is satisfying just as it is.
What I liked most about this novel is that the story made me think. Have I made the most of my life? Am I in my own true place? I highly recommend True Places (and Ms. Yoerg’s other three books) to all readers of contemporary fiction. I await the author’s next offering with great anticipation.
Thank you, Ms. Yoerg, for gifting me an ARC of True Places. Opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way.
“The girl was not simply ill or lost; she was otherworldly.”
True Places is a beautifully written family drama that focuses on materialism and superficiality. A family is left in shambles after they take in a 15-year-old who has lived off the grid for her enter life, They must either learn to recognize what’s really important in life or lose each other.
Suzanne, a mother of two, is simply existing in her upper-class world in Charlottesville. It appears she has the perfect family--perfect husband, perfect children, and perfect marriage. She spends her time doing charity work and constantly taking care of her husband and children. But Suzanne is not living--paralyzed by fear from an event in her past, Suzanne has learned to avoid conflict. She is physically present, but she’s emotionally stilted. One day she takes a long drive for an escape, and she stumbles across Iris, a 15-year-old girl who has lived her entire life in the forest.
Without a mother or a home, Suzanne takes in Iris. Her family is resistant and Iris does not want to be a part of this new world full of excess and unnecessary things.
Iris’s appearance exposes the cracks in the perfect facade this family has been hiding behind.
Told from alternating chapters, the reader gets to experience the journey and transformation of each character.
I really enjoyed True Places. While the plot of a crumbling family is one that felt familiar, the plot surrounding Iris’s character was original. Iris’s character won’t be one I forget for a long time. While the writing was strong, I felt at times, that it was a bit overly preachy and could have used a little more subtlety as the message was pretty obvious. However, I was completely transported by Iris’s journey and loved the chapters told from her perspective. I was moved in the end and became emotionally connected to these characters. I would recommend to those who are looking for a family drama with a unique spin.
5 Lovely, Lyrical and Marvelous Stars!
There are times when there are no words. When you are writing a review and you know that you just can’t do an author’s novel justice. This is one of those times.
I was lucky enough to be offered an advanced copy of “True Places” from the author, Sonja Yoerg and of course, I jumped at the chance after having read her prior novel “All the Best People” last year as that book and those characters have stayed with me. The same can be said for “True Places.” There is a beauty in Sonja Yoerg’s words that transcends all else.
In “True Places” a young girl named Iris is found on the outskirts of the forest, alone, emaciated and deathly ill. She is brought to a nearby hospital by Suzanne, a pillar of the community. Suzanne is a wife and mother - her husband Whit, and her two children, Reid and Brynn couldn’t function without her. Suzanne is scared for the girl and immediately takes Iris under her wing and together they become a foster family. Iris, having lived on her own in the woods for so many years, does not fit in, not at Suzanne’s, not anywhere but the woods where she came from. When Suzanne took Iris in, she imagined that it would be her helping Iris, little does she realize, it’s Iris who helps her.
Who's to say what defines a person? Where you belong and what is right for you? In “True Places,” Sonja Yoerg expresses the ways in which people can be completely different from each other - yet still belong and have a place in this world. The place in which they feel the most comfortable: their “True Place.” Sometimes it’s obvious and sometimes it takes a bit of work to find.
What stood out for me after having now read two of Ms. Yoerg’s novels (besides the fact that I need every book she has ever written!) is the fact that she skillfully delves into to the heart of family dynamics, emotions and people in a way that a lot of authors simply cannot. Her words are beautiful, poetic and soulful.
In my opinion, this is a character driven novel, each character fulfilling a different role - everyone just as important as the other. This novel and these characters, especially Suzanne and Iris, are ones to cherish. If you have not read a novel by Ms. Yoerg, I can’t recommend her novels strongly enough.
A huge thank you to Sonja Yoerg, NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for a complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
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*Will be published on Amazon on release date.