Liz Michalski’s debut novel, “Evenfall,” is a beautifully rendered, bittersweet tale of love and loss. Wrapped around the three vivid point-of-view characters and a strong supporting cast, which includes the setting, is the powerful theme of how the tough decisions of the heart that we make can have cascading effects that haunt us for the rest of our lives.
Speaking of haunting, one of the main characters, Frank Wildermurth, is a ghost. Andie Murphy, his 33-year-old niece, has returned from the implosion of a three-year relationship in Italy to settle her Uncle Frank’s estate in rural southeastern Connecticut. Andie’s aging aunt, Gert Murphy, a no-nonsense woman who drives her crazy, is living in the cottage.
When young Cort McAllister shows up at the estate one day, the Murphy women put him to work doing odd jobs cleaning up the ramshackle estate property, called Evenfall. Andie remembers Cort as the little 11-year-old boy she used to babysit, but now he is a strapping, handsome young man and sparks soon fly between them. The budding relationship is complicated when Andie’s ex-boyfriend, Neal Roberts, shows up and tries to win her back.
Aunt Gert is tempted to get involved, though it’s against her nature. “Gert’s made a lifetime out of walking away, out of keeping herself to herself, avoiding other people’s troubles,” she reflects at the beginning of one key chapter. Indeed, many years earlier, she had walked away from a love struck Frank and enlisted as a nurse in the war.
Meanwhile, Frank is a spectral presence who is still grappling with the decision he made years ago to choose Gert’s sister, Clara Murphy, over his true love. Michalski skillfully handles the story’s paranormal aspects as Frank’s presence is subtle and there is no over-the-top magic here to cloud the story.
In the end, Andie must follow her heart, a lesson Frank learned the hard way.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and I highly recommend it.