When I got the first glimpse at the German edition and went on to see how the original cover was looking, I was not very much impressed. Why have the German editions sometimes such awful covers? The original looks so charming and so beautiful, why not just do something like it for the German readers? Thanks to the author´s first name and the interesting sounding content I was convinced enough to give it at least a try. And it was really worth it. Okay, I had to ignore the look of the German edition (bright orange in combination with pink and copper – not really my thing!) but it is the novel itself that matters, right? Right! And so I began to read and after I was finished I have to admit, that it caught me on the last few pages. I had tears in my eyes when I closed it and believe me, not very many books can say that they were able to achieve that.

The Charm Bracelet*
by Viola Shipman
Publisher Thomas Dunne Books on March 22, 2016
Genre Novel
Pages 304
Format Softcover
Source Publisher

On her birthday each year, Lolly´s mother gave her a charm, along with the advice that there is nothing more important than keeping family memories alive, and so Lolly´s charm bracelet would be a constant reminder of that love. Now seventy and starting to forget things, Lolly knows time is running out to reconnect with a daughter and granddaughter whose lives have become too busy for Lolly or her family stories. But when Arden, Lolly´s daughter, receives an unexpected phone call about her mother, she and granddaughter Laura rush home. Over the course of their visit, Lolly reveals the story behind each charm on her bracelet, and one by one the family stories help Lolly, Arden, and Lauren reconnect in a way that brings each woman closer to finding joy, love, and faith.
Arden is one of those women who need years to recover from an ugly divorce. And her daughter Lauren has to pay the price for it – at least when it comes to her future plans and her passion for art. Arden is invincible, a gray mouse who does the work from others but is never part of the actual party. A letter from her mother Lolly, who still lives in the small town of Scoops, starts to change things for Arden and her daughter.

It is at first a novel where family values, tradition, and some rituals are highly valued, even though some of the figures have forgotten them.

Viola Shipman has a nice way to put things in perspective, sometimes a bit kitschy but mostly The Charm Bracelet is a wonderfully written novel. There is a lot of wise saying in the story, charming figures come across – some of them stay, others walk by. The authors’ language is as simple as you can imagine but very touching and moving as well. With very few words she describes a captivating landscape, emotional scenes, and some deep down and long-buried rituals that come to the surface again.

The novel starts from the personal point of view by Arden and switches then to an invisible narrator until the epilog, where it goes back to Arden`s personal point of view again. Viola Shipman used her grandmother’s bracelet as plot and so the book is structured in eleven chapters – each for one of the charms Lolly has on her Bracelet. And what story each of them has!

You will see mostly women in this novel. Each and every one of them as unique and individual as you can imagine. Some of them will drive you nuts while others will just stun you.

Arden is the typical grey mouse possible. All her life she tried to be different from the way her mother is and now, as a mother of a young woman herself, she does everything to thwart her in every imaginable way. Don´t do this because it will put you in danger, don´t do that because it´s not safe there and you can´t study this because there is no guarantee that you will be able to make you living out of it …
Arden is a woman who has totally forgotten what it feels like to live, how to feel, and to let others make her feel good. And when she figures out, that her mother is sick and that the day will come sooner rather than later where she needs everyday help, she starts to forbid her mother everything that makes fun. Excuse me?

Lolly has a lust for life that is beyond every imagination. She is one heck of an old woman who wears all kinds of silly kitchen aprons, owns more wigs than shoes, and enjoys every day to its fullest. What she does in town at Dolly´s shop is remarkable and something Arden doesn´t approve at all.

The Charm Bracelet is a wonderful moving, charming, and very touching novel full of life, love, and a beautiful birthday ritual. If you´re looking for a book that will inspire you, show you how to do things the best way possible; then this is your book.

Happy reading

*I´ve read the German edition new release by Fischer KRÜGER on May 25, 2016 

Wade Rouse
©John Quirin

Viola Shipman is a pen name for Wade Rouse, a popular, award-winning memoirist. Rouse chose his grandmother’s name, Viola Shipman, to honor the woman whose charm bracelet and family stories inspired him to write his debut novel, which is a tribute to all of our elders. Rouse lives in Michigan and writes regularly for People and Coastal Living, among other places, and is a contributor to All Things Considered.


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