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The Lines Between Us

By Linda Ulleseit
November 6, 2020

The Lines Between Us

In 1661 Madrid, Ana is still grieving the loss of her husband when her niece, sixteen-year-old Juliana, suddenly vanishes. Ana frantically searches the girl’s room and comes across a diary. Journeying to southern Spain in the hope of finding her, Ana immerses herself in her niece’s private thoughts. After a futile search in Seville, she comes to Juliana’s final entries, and, discovering the horrifying reason for the girl’s flight, abandons her search.

In 1992 Missouri, in her deceased mother’s home, Rachel finds a packet of letters, and a diary written by a woman named Juliana. Rachel’s reserved mother has never mentioned these items, but Rachel recognizes the names Ana and Juliana: her mother uttered them on her deathbed. She soon becomes immersed in Juliana’s diary, which recounts the young woman’s journey to Mexico City and her life in a convent. As she learns the truth about Juliana’s tragic family history, Rachel seeks to understand her connection to the writings—hoping that in finding those answers, she will somehow heal the wounds caused by her mother’s lifelong reticence.

This dual timeline novel has quite a few things that grabbed my interest immediately: finding mysterious old papers in a family member’s home, searching genealogy, reading old journals, and not getting along well with your mom. An incredible amount of research of the culture and history of 17th century Spain went into this novel, giving it a richer experience beyond the family drama.

The modern day Rachel is immediately intrigued by Juliana’s diaries, and sets out to discover if they are related. Juliana is an admirable ancestor, and Rachel wants to be part of her family. The discovered truths are devastating as well as inspiring, and not what the reader expects. Juliana’s riveting story is revealed through her journal. Rachel and the reader learn about Juliana’s life together, the empathy reaching easily across the centuries.

Rachel’s story develops as she learns more about her family’s legacy of honor, bravery, and overcoming heartache. What would you do if you became the caretaker of a family secret kept for hundreds of years, one that you were never intended to know? Rachel and her mother have always had a strained relationship, but it’s not until after her mother’s death that Rachel understands the toll that the family secret has taken. Rachel can’t help but resent the secret her mother kept from her, a secret intended to be passed on to the daughter Rachel does not yet have. Her mother’s death before the birth of a granddaughter jeopardizes the tradition of passing down the secret and hurts Rachel deeply.

The characters shine in this novel, and their situations are at the same time unique and familiar. It’s as easy to empathize with Juliana’s feeling of being ostracized as it is to understand Rachel’s deep-seated sense of the gulf between herself and her mother. Both young women feel a very real anguish and work to overcome it in ways true to their era. This is a highly recommended book that will keep you intrigued to the end.

Linda Ulleseit

Written by Linda Ulleseit

Linda Ulleseit writes award-winning heritage fiction set in the United States. She is a member of Historical Novel Society, Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and Women Writing the West as well as a founding member of Paper Lantern Writers. Get in touch with her on Instagram (lulleseit) and Facebook (Linda Ulleseit or SHINE with Paper Lantern Writers).

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