At the Corner of King Street by Mary Ellen Taylor
At the Corner of King Street, by Mary Ellen Taylor, follows two threads: Sarah Shire-Goodwin, Scottish immigrant settling in the new colony of Virginia; and Addie Morgan, a women trying to distance herself from her family and the disease that destroyed it.
Addie Morgan’s family is cursed.
The women in her family tend to carry traits for mental diseases, or “carry the curse” as it has been called for centuries. Addie was lucky enough to be passed over, but both her mother and older sister suffer from being bipolar. Addie has always taken care of everybody, but when her sister causes her to crash her car and nearly kills the two of them, Addie has had enough. She leaves Alexandria, Virginia; the Shire Family Salvage Company; and heads off to anywhere else.
She finds herself working as a picker in a vineyard, later becoming the bookkeeper, and ultimately second-in-command. Here she feels she finally has a normal life with her job and her boyfriend, the vineyard owner. Everything is going perfect, until she receives a call from her sister Janet, and is sent back into the cyclone of her former life.
After the car accident, Janet took off leaving her husband and son. Since then she has been doing drugs, drinking, and not taking her medication. She also is pregnant, and when Addie arrives on the scene, Janet has just given birth to a baby girl. Addie hopes that the baby can quickly be found a foster home so that she can return to her new life, but soon discovers that nothing in life is ever that simple.
While Janet is committed to thirty days of a doctor’s care, Addie stays in Alexandria taking care of the new baby, and the family business. Here she meets up with an old friend, Margaret and the two stumble onto a mystery strife with superstition. In the homes they are salvaging, Addie and Margaret discover three witch bottles, a protective charm from the 18th century made to ward off a supposed witch named Faith. As they look deeper into this, they discover that this mystery is connected to Addie’s distant relative Sarah Goodwin along with the problems in the present. Addie soon finds out that the past is never far behind.
Thoughts after reading:
I really enjoyed this novel. I liked the way that Mary Ellen Taylor made all of her characters multi-dimensional, just as complicated and interesting as they would be if they existed in real life. First we have the character of Addie who has had to grow up fast, being the one to care for her mother and sister because of their illness. After her mother’s death and her sister nearly killing her, Addie has had enough and wants to get far away in the hopes of having a normal life. When she is called back to the chaos of it all, she at first doesn’t want to help her sister or care for her sister’s baby. Addie is selfish for wanting to live her own life and not care for her family members, but it is a selfishness that has evolved from years of trying to make things better, to only have things fall even more apart. I appreciated that the author was willing to make the character not so saintly or eager to pitch in, but showing the reality of how much of a burden this disease is to the people who have it and for their family members.
Eventually, Addie does decide to care for her niece and her reintegration into her Aunt Grace’s home, as well as trying to mend the broken relationship between her ex-brother-in-law Zeb and nephew Eric, were extremely well done. While some novels would have quickly had everyone pull together for “the good of the child”, the author had this repairing of familial bonds done slowly. Addie still has feelings of betrayal from her Aunt Grace not rescuing her from her mother’s care and the chaotic life they had lead. She also has a lot of guilt from choosing not to be a part of her nephew’s life and not fully preparing Zeb for the reality of what living with Janet is like. Aunt Grace is angry with Addie for having left her alone to work on the family, but is also angry with herself for not having the courage to mother the girls and remove them from her sister’s care. Zeb has spent many years angry with his ex-wife, but has lived a contented life raising their son. Now he has to deal with his resentment and bitterness at Janet for abandoning their family and once again throwing his world off kilter. Not only does the author make these slow transitions, but not all of these issues are resolved by the end of the book, the family still taking it one step at a time.
I also loved the secondary character, Margaret, the sassy, free-spirited, historian. She has been working in the family bakery while trying to find another job, and becomes Addie’s partner in salvaging and unraveling the mystery of the witch’s bottles. As a fellow historian, Magaret’s excitement and wit made her extremely endearing and relatable. I hope to see more of her in the future; maybe even her own book or series? Here’s hoping!
The mystery was done very well. At first I disliked the journal entries from Sarah Goodwin that are placed in front of every chapter, but as the book went on and the lives of Sarah and Faith tied closer and closer to Addie and her family, they became extremely enjoyable. The final conclusion to the mystery and the novel was powerful and led to a perfect ending.
All in all I really enjoyed this novel, giving it a five out of five star rating.
I look forward to reading past and future novels of Mary Ellen Taylor and her tales of Alexandria.
For the previous mystery book review, go to Fatally Frosted
For more stand-alone mysteries, go to The Dollhouse Murders