Things Unsaid
by Diana Y. Paul

She Writes Press, 2015. ISBN 978-1-631-52812-5.
Reviewed by Lee Ambrose
Posted on 07/03/2015

Fiction: Literary

In a carefully crafted cautionary tale, Diana Paul writes a story of a family that could be anyone's family. Dr. and Mrs. Whitman have lived a life of privilege. They have raised two daughters, Julia ("Jules") and Joanne, and a son, Andrew. Each of the children have families of their own and must grapple with how to handle their aging parents' decline in health, resistance to lifestyle changes, and financial irresponsibility.

Jules emerges as the one to whom not only her parents but also her siblings turn on a regular basis for a financial bail-out. With a measure of guilt and compassion, duty and devotion, she struggles to always come through for each one's request for more money. She does so not only to the detriment of her own financial well-being, but to the eventual demise of her marriage and a heartbreaking challenge to her relationship with her daughter. All of this because "that's what a good daughter is supposed to do."

Paul's story is an intricate study in human behavior, perhaps no better illustrated than in the fact that Jules has been trying for years to write her own book, titled The Narcissistic Mother. A long, never-ending history of bailing out her siblings and her parents takes a huge emotional and financial toll on Jules, whose siblings seem unable to see past their own selfish need for Jules' financial assistance. When she makes herself unavailable to them during a family crisis of her own, her brother and sister are disgruntled at her unreturned phone calls, her inability to provide funds for them, her seeming unwillingness to "be there for them like she always has been."

In gripping detail, Paul unravels the threads that once bound these individuals together. Family ties are stressed to the breaking point. A crisis of health for some, relationship for others, and self-awareness for Jules, culminates in the realization of the toll that ill-placed priorities can take. Jules is forced to confront the difficult issue of choosing between the family she was born into and the one she created as an adult. Moral dilemmas, emotional roller-coasters, sacrifice and duty abound in this tense novel that exposes raw human emotion—sparing no one the pain that comes with such issues.

Things Unsaid is Diana Y. Paul's first novel. She has also written three books on Buddhism, and is a former professor at Stanford University in Buddhist Studies and the role of women in religion and culture. Her short stories have appeared in a number of literary journals and she is currently working on a second novel, A Perfect Match. She lives in Carmel, CA with her husband and two cats, where she also loves to create mixed media art. Her works have been exhibited in California, Hawaii, and Japan. To learn more about Paul, visit her website & her blog.

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