Aunty Liv is an unusual character that we get to know in relation to her niece MOP who basks in her limelight and who wonders why she managed to disappear just when her own mother took a leap into the ocean and left her alone. Aunty Liv is odd and the secrets revealed in this novel are delivered with the strength of a hurricane and a relentless storm MOP begins the novel with her account of her Aunt’s disappearance, leaving her nursing job and her mother’s death as well as someone trying to kill her but why? Her aunt’s cottage was burned down, her life itself seems in shambles and someone is out to destroy her but who and why as MOP takes readers back in time to her childhood along with her lifelong friend Manny. Finding herself once again at her aunt’s estate after not being there for many years, the author pictures the beautiful gardens, perfect laws and Aunt Liv at the heart of the story. No longer beautiful but missing teeth, scars and definitely in contrast to her perfectionist appearance, In the Vines takes us through many moods, many broken relationships, trusts and deceits as we get to know more about MOP and the secrets that only the burnt ashes of the estate can tell if the simpers come back alive. The secrets within the walls of the New England estate are dark, dangerous and there is a killer on the loose. Told from two viewpoints MOP’s and Aunty Liv you get to hear their innermost thoughts, their rationale for their actions as Mop tells it her way and Aunty Liv hers. Mop is interesting but Aunty Liv from the moment we meet her in the restaurant spying on Cate and Vicky arguing over the fact that Vicky might be having an affair with Cate’s husband we realize that something about Liv is not quite rational as Cate decides to eliminate the competition and Aunty Liv just sits back and smiles.
Listening to Liv and Joanna, MOP’s mother interact we realize that both characters have mental issues to deal with but Liv describes her affair with Kent and the allergic murder she witnessed and is trying to tell Joanna about it but she is too bent on getting drunk. Liv is crazy and her modes of hysteria and being slightly paranoid add to the story. While MOP in the present is dealing with her own hidden fears and trepidations being stalked by an unknown assailant.
Mary Olivia Pentecost in the present is remembering her mother Joanna from the past as she downed two years ago and is attached in some way to Aunt Liv Vandonbeer living on the estate in Rye, New Hampshire. Creating a duel plot is not easy and allowing readers into the minds, thoughts and actions of characters in two time periods is what author Shannon Kirk does and it is quite thought provoking. Each scene is quite distant, as the characters seem to be apart of the action yet at times detached. Both MOP and LIV are highly strung and each one justifies her own actions and even Liv at times seems to feel she is losing her mind. MOP is in fear and hiding in the present in the basement of the burned guesthouse on the estate with someone trying to kill her but who and why?
Within the minds of both MOP and LIV you get different perspectives of their own separate realities and you wonder just whose is real and whose is a figment of what they want the reader to believe.
Flashing back and forth between the past and two years past we learn just who the woman that is locked in the basement is, the fact that she is also trying to kill MOP and Manny her boyfriend and her relationship with two odd aunts: Live and Sister Mary Patience who believes in chastity and refuses to accept that MOP is an adult and wants her under the ward of her father and will stop at nothing to make that happen while she wants to fly on her own but first we learn more about Liv and her patient.
Aunt Liv seems to have several personalities trying to convince herself that she did nothing wrong sheltering her patient claiming to keep her safe and out of harms way. But, she switches gears and then relates the incident differently making you wonder what’s realistic and what’s fantasy. Mop is dealing along with her companion a deranged woman trying to kill her and her partner but who is it and why?
Flashing to her Aunty Liv and Aunty Mary Patience and asking why she never heard from Manny you wonder who is in this world and who has escaped. Mop justifies her reasoning and we learn first hand about her and Manny when the author shares their reunion.
The past presents a disturbing scene as Liv is caught up with finding Kent at the hospital but winds up I. The horrible scene of a shooting in a church and needs to focus in between her ire and concern for finding Kent blaming his wife gut somehow coming to her property and stealing the Phenobarbital stash she and Kent would use to start their on business: anger wells and we get to hear her asking Johanna not to come to rye and Ho elsewhere as talking to sister Mary Patience just ire’s more. In the present mop deals with two lunatics her aunts note of confession and learning more about herself within this chapter filled with fear within both Liv and mop and dealing with the crazy woman in the basement and why she’s there as Liv justifies her actions in her own warped mind. Added in the author creates doubt in the reader’s mind as to who is sane who faces reality and who needs mental help.
Liv takes us inside Kent’s home room by room explaining her whereabouts and what her goal is because Cate now has the upper hand and she wants to level the playing field. What she sees horrified her as a new reality sets in and we return to the present and Mop who just wants to learn the truth and who to trust seeing this woman chained in the basement wanting to understand her duplicity in this event and hoping to find some semblance and honesty in her life.
Aunty has this woman chained but we hear her rants raves and words wondering as mop does whose truths are real hers or her aunts as she finds her aunt pretends to want a book and skirts out going to another scene with Liv patience Manny and her father.
This dinner turns haywire as Liv rants about someone in her past that attack her in a barn and then patience has her own take on things as mop decides to escape Ave we learn the fate of Kent. Finding him dead on mops bed Liv freaks out thinking Cate left him there and now her nurse better clock in as you wonder what else author Shannon Kirk as in store for these characters and the reader remembering the love between Kent. Liv and their unborn child. Relationship failures all around.
Liv vs., Cate and Johanna this scene is priceless as all three come together the startling revelation about Kent’s death comes to light and Liv needs to focus before the match falls her life burns and who will remain to tell the rest?
As mop deals with Aunt patience and her odd reaction to her question, Liv in the past needs to deal with her injuries Cate, Kent and Johanna as she does her own assessment of value and injuries deciding on a course of action but hearing her will she ever be sane or rational to focus on the problems at hand? Deranged, overwrought and not coherent at times both MOP and Liv present irrational portraits of their inner selves.
An ending so terrifying and so unexpected you won’t believe the lies betrayals and deception ms that are revealed as a woman with a hatchet living in the basement of the barn bent on destroying Mop, Liv and one unexpected person as Author Shannon Kirk shakes it up it a higher level and Mop takes action to save it all but will she? What happens to Aunty Liv? The hatchet woman who is she? A phone call sets someone in motion and Mop learns the true meaning of loyalty family and love but will she survive? Some endings are beginning and some take unusual turns as you take the journey along with Liv, Johanna, MOP and the rest and tread lightly and carefully when walking in the vines.
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