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Day: March 24, 2016

“The Charm Bracelet” by Viola Shipman


The Charm Bracelet” by Viola Shipman

c.2016, Thomas Dunne Books
$25.99 / $29.99 Canada
298 pages


The jewelry you wear tells a story.

A ring on your left hand, third finger, says to the world that you stood up once and vowed to love and honor. A brightly-colored stone says you were born in a certain month. Sparkles around your neck might tell of a vacation, an apology, or a whim, and in the new book “The Charm Bracelet” by Viola Shipman, the tales of three women are told by the jewelry on their wrists.

For every milestone day that Lolly Lindsay had, she received a special gift.

Her mother started the tradition by giving Lolly a charm for her bracelet one birthday; that charm, like each to come, signified a dream or a wish, and was accompanied by a special poem meant to remind Lolly that she was loved.

Over the years, the bracelet became heavy with metal and memories – the summer before her mother died, the boy she grew up to marry, the best friend she cherished – and when she had a daughter, Lolly started the tradition with her own little girl.

Always a pleaser, Arden was exasperated with her mother.

Even as a child, she was embarrassed by Lolly’s free-spiritedness, her sense of style, and by Lolly’s idea of what was fun. As soon as she could, Arden moved away from her mother’s Michigan home to live a button-down Chicago life that was comforting to her. But now, in the twilight of Lolly’s life, Arden felt guilty for not spending more time with her mother – or her daughter.

Graduating with a degree is an accomplishment, but Lauren wished she could tell her mother the truth: she really wanted an art degree, not a business one. Lauren knew that her mother worried about money; Arden, come to think, worried about a lot of things, which was maybe why Lauren was closer to her grandmother. She and Lolly were like two peas in a pod.

Like two charms on a bracelet – one of whom was quietly losing her luster.

There’s a basically good premise to the story inside “The Charm Bracelet.” Sadly, that story begs – pleads – for help.

Reading this book is rough: names are employed to a frequency that’s distracting and pronouns are at a premium. The female characters “jump up and down” a lot and it seems as though somebody’s crying more than they’re not; as for the male characters, one’s a stereotypical Mean Dad, one is predictably hunky (do you see where this is going?), and a simple farmer-type is honest-to-goodness called “Clem.”

I whined a lot while reading this book and I might have ditched it, were it not for the above-mentioned basically good premise. Author Viola Shipman (a pseudonym for memoirist Wade Rouse) offers a sweet generational-family, cabin-in-the-woods story told through memories and jewelry, which could’ve been really cute. Alas…

I think that, if you can overlook the flaws and not-so-charm-ing facets, you might really enjoy this mother-daughter-granddaughter story. If those things bother you, though, “The Charm Bracelet” is a gem that’s awfully tarnished.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is based in Wisconsin.