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Acts of Contrition

By Jennifer Handford
ISBN: 1477809503I
Publisher: Amazon Publishing
Publicaiton Date:  4/15/2014
My Rating:  5 Stars 
 
Mary Morrissey is living the life of her dreams. She has a loving husband of ten years, Tom, two daughters, and twin boys. Her parents are just down the road. Her three sisters are nearby. Perfect—some might even say she is living the American Dream.
 
But beneath the shiny veneer, Mary hasn’t taken a calm breath in years. She lives in a constant state of panic, afraid that the secret she’s kept hidden for so long will be revealed, that it will shatter the life she’s worked so hard to build.When Mary’s handsome and addictively charismatic ex-boyfriend Landon James reappears during his high profile Senate campaign, she feels the truth bubbling to the surface and knows she’s powerless to stop it. Mary has spent years trying to forget him, and now he’s on every TV she sees.A conditional Catholic,Mary bargains with God, negotiating deals that will keep her happy life undisturbed for another day.
 
She prays for strength and confesses her sins—anything that might let her sleep at night under the weight of the guilt she carries from lying to her husband and family for the entirety of her marriage.When Tom learns what Mary’s been hiding, what once seemed unfathomable—a deep, heartbreaking divide between them—is now their new normal.
 
 
Can they find a way to rebuild their life together? Is forgiveness possible? Acts of Contrition is a richly drawn story of faith, family loyalty, and forgiveness, even in the face of moral ambiguity, guilt, and shattered trust.  
 

My Review  

 
 
A special thank you to Amazon Publishing  and NetGalley for providing a complimentary ARC, in exchange for an unbiased and honest review.
 
Mary is a very likeable character, a strong protagonist readers will relate to, as she is the perfect wife and mother of two daughters and twin sons. She is real and flawed. She loves her family and everything it stands for; she has values and morals. 

Even before she married at age thirty, an attorney in her earlier career, her real passion ---to be married and raising a family, similar to her simple, but loving Catholic Italian upbringing. She deserves to happy, having waited so long for this dream. 

Tom, her husband is every woman’s dream, and mirrors his wife’s passion by supporting his family, a caring father, offering love and financial security. (I found myself wanting to be a part of this dynamic unit).

However, Mary has a problem. She suffers from an addiction. She has an addiction to people. Mary, finds herself in an unhealthy roller coaster relationship for years, with charismatic and political Landon James. He was charming, good looking, successful, ambitious and she fell deeply in love.
 
However, Landon was very non-committal, and did not share her happily ever after. She continues waiting for him, addicted to being with him, hanging on his every gesture, waiting for that perfect ending which never came. 

After such time, she gives up on Landon (not out of her mind), and meets Tom (the one) and they marry. Now in the middle of her perfect life – her deal with the devil comes back to haunt her.

When Landon calls, her heart melts and she loses her senses. She has been living with the guilt from the past with a secret she has buried. She has kept this secret and lie, in order to protect her own marriage and family.

The deep buried secret now resurfaces, as Landon in running for Senate, a high profile position - her past is about to destroy her perfectly planned life.

A thought- provoking, intense, and poignant story of a moral dilemma--disclosing the truth, versus burying it deep within a perfect marriage. When faced with the question – What would you do, and are you prepared for the fallout? Do you trust your love and your partnership to see you through the most difficult times? By experiencing the bad, can you get to an even better place? 

Beautifully written story for Easter, as we are celebrate Sunday (same as setting at the end of the book). A time of redemption, love, grace, and forgiveness. There are many parallels within ACTS OF CONTRITION, as Jennifer unfolds masterfully. 

Told from past to present, from both points of view (Mary and Tom), ACTS OF CONTRITION is deeply moving and full of emotion. A story which will be attractive to a wide audience of readers-from young mothers, wives, to older women, of any faith. An ideal book for book clubs or discussions. 

There are other secondary characters in this contemporary fiction, carrying out the theme of “addiction”, in other ways, such as Tom’s brother, Patrick – an alcoholic, his father, also an alcoholic and not so faithful husband, Mary’s sister, Teresa with secrets of her own, and Tom’s mother, who has held strong, and faithful throughout. 

I loved the quote in the READERS GUIDE, at the end of the book by the author: "If Mary were sorry—for the sake of it, because she did wrong and was regretful for it—then her contrition might have been “perfect.” But Mary was seduced by the good life: her husband, her children, and the life she built with them. In a sense, she made a deal with the devil. So she was contrite, yes, but the reader wonders about her contrition. Certainly it was imperfect. She was more concerned about getting caught, about losing what she had, than about coming clean for the sake of it. Is this to say she was a bad person? Absolutely not. It’s to say that she was human.” 

Highly recommend this compelling read, and look forward to reading “Daughters for a Time” her earlier award-winning book. As a Professor of Writing at American University in Washington, D.C., Hanford’s strong and keen writing style is most reflective in this powerful and satisfying second novel.
 
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