My grateful thanks to Katie Olsen at Little Bird Publicity for a copy of Only Ever Her by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen in return for an honest review.
Only Ever Her is published by Lake Union today, 7th May 2019, and is available for purchase here.
Only Ever Her
It was to be the perfect wedding—until the bride disappeared.
Annie Taft’s wedding is four days away, and it will be one of the grandest anyone can remember in her small South Carolina town. Preparations are in order. Friends and family are gathering in anticipation. Everything is going according to plan. Except that Annie herself has vanished. Did she have second thoughts? Or has something much worse happened to the bride-to-be?
While her loved ones frantically try to track her down, they’re forced to grapple with their own secrets—secrets with the power to reframe entire relationships, leaving each to wonder how well they really knew Annie and how well they know themselves.
My Review of Only Ever Her
Annie is about to get married but her mother’s killer is also being released from prison.
Initially I didn’t think I was going to enjoy Only Ever Her because it took me a while to attune my British reader eye to the American tone of the book. However, once I had done so I thought Only Ever Her was a hugely compelling narrative and one I thoroughly enjoyed.
The plot veered me away from my expectations almost immediately. With doubt over the newly released Cordell Lewis’s conviction for killing Lydia, I assumed this would be the main focus of the story but Marybeth Mayhew Whalen had other ideas. I found it very entertaining to be wrong-footed so that there was much more to the story than I had anticipated.
Only Ever Her illustrates the close-knit, claustrophobic, small town America atmosphere brilliantly. Although everyone knows everyone else’s business, the undercurrent of deception and distraction makes the reader feel they are part of the action because they know elements the characters do not. I felt Only Ever Her had quite a Twin Peaks feel to it and it would make an excellent television series.
The characters are distinct and realistic. I don’t usually like books where there are several threads with different chapters allocated to individual characters but here it worked very effectively because they are all so well-defined. It fascinated me how Marybeth Mayhew Whalen managed to manipulate me as a reader. For example, I didn’t warm to Laurel at all at the start and yet by the end of the story I felt I understood her well and had come to like her. It’s also incredibly clever how the entire plot revolves around Annie and yet she is hardly present at all. It was as if I had taken ownership of her without really knowing her – in much the same way the townsfolk do.
The themes of Only Ever Her have huge relevance to today’s society. There’s injustice and prejudice, loyalty and deception, love and longing so that the small town setting of the book could be applied to any location, making it all the more pertinent for any reader.
Having begun reading Only Ever Her feeling quite detached, I ended the book with a lump in my throat and the sensation that I had been fully entertained. I really enjoyed it.
About Marybeth Mayhew Whalen
Marybeth Mayhew Whalen is the author of The Things We Wish Were True and five previous novels. She speaks to women’s groups around the US. Marybeth is married to Curt and they are the parents of six children, ranging from young adult to elementary age. The family lives in North Carolina. Marybeth spends most of her time in the grocery store but occasionally escapes long enough to scribble some words. She is always at work on her next novel.