Book Review: ‘Bethlehem: A Novel’ Is A Sterling Debut By Karen Kelly

Two women come together when the past and present intertwine and a long held secret comes out in Karen Kelly’s debut novel Bethlehem.

Set in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania the story is set in the early 1960’s and flashes back to the family starting in 1918 where we learn about the past and how it relates to present day story. Joanna Rafferty Collier moves with two children and her husband Frank to his family home. She’s not at all crazy about this. Frank’s dad has died and his overbearing mother Susannah and his grandmother still live in the house and he is a big wig at the family steel company and this works out best for the family.

When Joanna is out on the grounds she notices a gravestone that is not in the family plot. She also meets Duncan who is working on the grounds. She becomes enamored with him especially since her husband is barely around and she is not happy about living in the house.

In flashbacks we learn about the family history from when Susannah was young along with the rest of the family and big secret that has been kept all these years. As tragedy hits the family and Joanna is caught in a compromising situation, Joanna is there for her and tells the secret that has not been told in many years and urges Joanna to try and fix things before it’s too late.

A great story of family, secrets set in a great location and time. With twists and turns the reader is engaged throughout the story. A sterling debut from a fresh new face in Karen Kelly.

You can pick up Bethlehem in stores on Tuesday, July 9th from St. Martin’s Press.

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