Perhaps it’s because of the eight years she spent as a widow raising a son and launching a business that True Dickinson can’t fully let a new man into her life. Or maybe it’s because secretly — she can’t even tell her best friend, Franny — True believes this really couldn’t be love forever and ever. Not between this gorgeous young man and a woman old enough to be, well, an older aunt.
True also must think of her son, Guy. He lost his father when he was two and he doesn’t need to start loving another man who may be only temporarily in their lives. So maybe it would be better to forget trying to build any kind of future and simply satisfy the incredible lust that fills her every time she sees him.
Hank Bannister, however, has another plan. He seduces True emotionally, as well as physically, and leads her to that place where she can’t say no to his proposal. To hell with what the stuffy Cape Cod society will whisper about this May/December romance. To hell with what her mother, Kathleen, who “has chosen widowhood as a way of life rather than a phase of life,” will say.
True simply cannot ignore a man who says, “…you’re not an option to me, True. You’re my destiny. You’re the one I knew would come. But I didn’t know you’d come walking right into my restaurant, with your wet hair loose around your face, and your cheekbones like some…stature, and look me square in the eye, and basically challenge me.”
As True and Hank struggle to make a marriage out of that first incredible attraction, they don’t seem to quite grasp the fact that it takes complete trust to make that happen. And it doesn’t help when his former girlfriend shows up. Hank and True do this little emotional dance around what is happening to complicate their relationship and almost miss the really important part.
If this were a simple romance, the story would end there, but there is nothing simple in this multi-layered tale with a cast of endearing characters. The title comes from True’s business which sends gifts every month for the first year of a baby’s life, making the child Twelve Times Blessed, and the people who work for her are a delightful group. Their bonds run deep and they are closer than some families.
Like Jacquelyn Mitchard’s other books, A Theory of Relativity, The Deep End of the Ocean, and The Most Wanted, the writing in Twelve Times Blessed is both frank and humorous, and the story is rich in physical and emotional detail:
“Except for the night of the altercation at the theater, she and Hank have spoken only in passing, like an elderly a cursorily hostile married couple who confine their conversation to an exchange of condiments.”
At other times, the prose is like an emotional tidal wave. When True is racked with doubt about Hank, “Stay forever. Don’t leave me. True digs her nails into her forehead. She will not say it.” And again when Guy is seriously ill,
“When Kitt leaves, True somehow feels that a great dam has been broken, that nothing will any longer be forbidden to flow over and to claim her. She sits on the bed and cries until she is drained, and her nasal passages are as sore as if she’s swum underwater for hours. It is all so very real, and she is so wicked sick of bawling. She should by now be a husk, instead of a water balloon.”
This is a funny, intelligent book and well worth the read.