The Second Chance Cafe
I don’t understand martyrdom. And in the same vein, I don’t understand not talking about issues, resulting in them festering for years and years. This book has a lot of that, making it difficult to identify with the characters.
At age five Kaylie Flynn’s drug-addicted mother attempted suicide in front of her, causing her to be pulled from home and put into foster care. For the next five years she is bounced around from one family to another until, at the age of ten, she lands in the loving home of Winston and May Wise. Like a parched flower, their nurturing and attention brings Kaylee much-needed stability. She thrives in their wonderful Victorian home but she has been damaged by her past, and is constantly waiting for the other shoe to fall. The state helps foster children with college so at eighteen she moves away to Austin, Texas. And while she keeps in touch with her foster parents, it is May that always initiates the contact.
Now she is back. With the money May left her, she re-buys the old family home, with plans of opening a restaurant there in honor of the love of cooking May instilled in her. And maybe it time to face her past and discover who she is.
But first she has to get her business off the ground for a Memorial Day opening. The house needs renovation and updates, and word of mouth tells her that Tennessee Keller is the best man for the job.
Tennessee is disappointed to hear that the old Victorian home has been sold. He had his eye on it for a long time. Work is work, but still he is not sure he wants to be the contractor that disfigures a historical building like this by taking out walls. But there is something about Kaylie that intrigues him, even though he doesn’t do relationships. With his screwed up family dynamics, he knows it is best to keep things casual. Tennessee can’t forget that his actions set in motion the incident that caused great harm to both his sister and brother. Since that time guilt and regret have isolated him from his family. It is better this way.
Kaylee and Ten are the main characters and I had problems understanding their characterization and motivation. Kaylee loved May and Winston, but she is the one who implemented the physical and emotional distance. I do understand the psychological protective reflex to push someone away first before they do it to you but why did Kaylee never work with a therapist over these issues, especially when May continued to reach out to her? I found it sad that to May, Kaylee was the daughter she never had, but Kaylee, even after 8 years of loving couldn’t believe in their love for her. Rather than honor them by taking their name, she picks a man who comforted her after the incident with her mother, not knowing that he was not what he seemed.
Additionally, she rarely sleeps through the night, tortured by dreams of her mother cutting her wrist in front of her, and her weapon of choice is a knife. Kaylee spent most of her life guarding her secrets and barricading her feelings – in fact she is quite stunted in her dealings with the opposite sex – but that almost effortlessly fades away around Ten. Within a few days of meeting him she reaches out to him for comfort after one of her nightmares.
Initially I liked Ten, but over the book his protectiveness and intrusiveness in Kaylee’s life caused warning bells to ring. Although they aren’t in a “relationship” he warns her against other people, and initiates an online search for her parents after Kaylee states that he doesn’t need to do so. Emotionally he is as stunted as Kaylee. He cut ties to his family even though his sister, Indiana – the only character that seemed to have some maturity and emotional intelligence – longed for contact. And while I wouldn’t say the relationship between the two felt unhealthy, the power balance felt off. Ten is all up in Kaylee’s business but declines to share with her, unless pushed.
The rest of the characters come across as mildly tortured. There is Luna, a highly successful weaver, who is keeping a secret about her deceased best friend. Then there is Will, the mysterious ex-con placed with Ten for his work release program. And Mitch, who still hasn’t forgotten how he failed to protect his daughter.
The book pulled me in sometimes, and then other times I had no desire to continue reading. Not because of the author’s writing – because Ms. Kent’s talent is never in question – but the story just has a gloomy feel to it, with all the foreshadowing of all the characters’ difficulties.
I am always looking for new women’s fiction authors but this is not a book I recommend.