Review: Bethlehem by Karen Kelly

Hardcover, 304 pages                 Published July 9th 2019 by St. Martin’s Press

ISBN13: 9781250201492      Setting:  Bethlehem, Pennsylvania(United States) 

Rating: 4*

Set during the gilded, glory days of Bethlehem, PA two women come together, not realizing that in a short time, the secrets of betrayal and temptations they’ve held and kept will one day bind them together in a way that neither could have ever expected.

Arriving at the grand ancestral home of her husband’s family, Joanna is hoping to fortify her cracking marriage. But what she finds is not what she expected: tragedy haunts the hallways, whispering of heartache and a past she never knew existed. And her mother-in-law Susannah, is not someone who makes Joanna feel welcome.  Too many women in a house that has seen too much tragedy and heartache and kept too many secrets.

It was touted as a historical based on the titans of the steel-boom era, namely Bethlehem Steel, but it turned out to be more than that in what I would describe as women’s fiction.  Joanna has had to give up the house and home she had lived in with her husband and two children to move into the families humongous ancestral home.  Living with her husband’s grandmother and mother who had held the title of mistress of that home.  It made Joanna feel somewhat non-essential.  Everything was taken care of by numerous family retainers who Joanna felt had more claim to the home than she would ever have.  

Feeling somewhat neglected Joanna fell into the habit of spending her time in the nearby cemetery  where she made friends with the quirky cemetery keepers and their enigmatic grandson.  She also discovered the tiny gravestone of baby “Hayes” whom she wanted to uncover the mystery of who he was and why no one had claimed it to give him a name.

*** The book started slowly and to be honest, it was something I struggled with, but slowly the story started to make more sense as the author kept up the past and present theme of Susannah’s and Joanna’s life.  Both would discover that their lives were similar but different.  The characters were well defined, the pace did pick up, and it was a pretty good summer read.   

Thanks to Net Galley for providing me the ARC of this book for an honest review.

Marilyn Rondeau

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