Bitter Like Orange Peel by Jessica Bell
Genre: Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Vine Leaves Press
Source: Review Copy for Tour
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Six women. One man. Seven secrets. One could ruin them all.
Kit is a twenty-five-year-old archaeology undergrad, who doesn’t like to get her hands dirty. Life seems purposeless. But if she could track down her father, Roger, maybe her perspective would change.
The only problem—Roger is as rotten as the decomposing oranges in her back yard according to the women in her life: Ailish, her mother—an English literature professor who communicates in quotes and clichés, and who still hasn’t learned how to express emotion on her face; Ivy, her half-sister—a depressed archaeologist, with a slight case of nymphomania who fled to America after a divorce to become a waitress; and Eleanor, Ivy’s mother—a pediatric surgeon who embellishes her feelings with medical jargon, and named her daughter after “Intravenous.”
Against all three women’s wishes, Kit decides to find Roger.
Enter a sister Kit never knew about.
But everyone else did.
I wasn't sure quite what to expect from this book when I started it. The premise was interesting to me and I love emotional reads, but how this one man connected to all six women beyond the brief glimpse provided in the blurb nagged at me. Going in, this book definitely felt like it could go either way.
The main female characters were also this way. At times I would love them for their humor, honesty, or strength and at others I would want to shake them for the decisions they were making. But as tumultuous as it sounds, I became invested in their story. The up and downs, the well-meaning but overzealous attempts to protect each other. It was really like getting a glimpse into a family: imperfect and at times impractical, but still full of love.
With all of that said, they all made some really dumb decisions in their lives, and not just in the name of protecting each other. Ivy and Kit especially act well below their ages, seemingly, unable to move forward with their lives. And while it was frustrating at times, it also fed into their back stories well. The absence of their father played a role so clear that even Psych 101 wasn't necessary to see it. So even when they were frustrating, you saw what was underneath it, even if you couldn't condone it. I definitely couldn't. By the end, the only character's I really felt sorry for were Eleanor and Edyie, since they were the only two that were never, to me at least, selfish or childish over the story's progression.
The one thing that didn't sit well with me was the ending. A major bombshell got dropped, never really cleared up, and then it was over. The book would have probably rated higher for me overall if that weren't the case, and I really wish I'd known going in. There's also something to be said for the fact that I was invested enough to really want to read more.
Overall, I Bitter Like Orange Peel was an enjoyable read for fans of emotional dramas, but don't go in expecting a resolution.
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If Jessica Bell could choose only one creative mentor, she’d give the role to Euterpe, the Greek muse of music and lyrics. This is not only because she currently resides in Athens, Greece, but because of her life as a thirty-something Australian-native contemporary fiction author, poet and singer/songwriter/guitarist, whose literary inspiration often stems from songs she’s written. Jessica is the Co-Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal and annually runs the Homeric Writers’ Retreat & Workshop on the Greek island of Ithaca. For more information, please visit her website.