Pros: great book until the last third
Cons: you can't mix exploding cakes with terminal cancer if your name isn't Patch Adams
Elizabeth Bass' debut novel, Miss You Most of All, is described as poignant, and -- spoiler -- the ending certainly is. But along the way, it hits notes that are anything but.
Rue has moved back to the family farm, which she runs with her sister Laura and their old friend Webb, who's not-so-secretly in love with Laura, who pushes him away at every turn. To keep the farm afloat, they've renamed it Sassy Spinster Farm and take in agrarian tourists who want to learn how to farm themselves. Rue is also dealing with her tween daughter, whose goal in life seems to be to break up the upcoming nuptials of her father and her former fifth grade teacher.
When Rue and Laura's former stepsister returns to the farm unexpectedly, kind-hearted Rue takes her in against Laura's wishes. But everyone seems to have some sort of secret that comes out at some point and changes everyone during the summer.
Bass is juggling several story lines: Laura and Webb's odd relationship, Heidi's reasons for fleeing to the farm, the return of Rue's breast cancer, and Rue's daughter's struggles with everything adult. The biggest problem is that some of them are serious and yes, poignant, and some of them are not. When Heidi's issues get resolved, they are downright slapstick and you can easily picture the Three Stooges being involved: not something you want with a "poignant" story line. The juxtaposition of the two lacks the deft hand of, say, Robert Harling's Steel Magnolias, where a moment of laughter takes you back from the brink of too much sadness, and instead, you get two clashing styles that go together about as well as chocolate mousse with anchovies.
I was really loving the book until the climax, but my reaction could be seen in a status update on GoodReads -- "WTMF?" -- where I asked what on earth could possibly be going on, and it never did resolve in any reasonable way. A great book devolved into mediocre for me after that, which is a shame.