Identical twins share a special bond. Therese Walsh’s stirring debut novel, “The Last Will of Moira Leahy,” explores the bonds that hold twins together and the painful consequences when those ties are broken.
The story begins when Maeve, a language professor in her mid-20’s, impulsively bids on a keris, a Javanese dagger, at an auction house. She wins the keris and weird things begin to happen, which unlock memories of the loss of her twin sister, Moira, nine years earlier.
Walsh alternates between Maeve’s first-person point-of view in the present and scenes from the past, told from Moira’s third-person viewpoint. Growing up in the coastal Maine community of Castine, Moira is overshadowed by her twin sister, Maeve, a child prodigy and a gifted saxophone player. Their bond is shattered when they both become interested in the same boy, their neighbor Ian. Moira’s quest for Ian ends tragically, and Maeve, torn apart by grief, abandons her promising musical career and retreats to a safer harbor.
The search for the meaning behind the keris leads Maeve to Rome, where she connects with Noel, her close friend who is trying to unravel mysteries of his own family. The intrigue deepens when Maeve attempts to contact the man in Rome who can unlock the mysteries behind the keris, only to be thwarted by his sinister half-brother.
Meanwhile, Walsh skillfully weaves in the tragic story of the loss of Maeve’s twin through the chapters entitled, Out of Time. As both narratives build to a climax, Maeve’s inner turmoil and search for resolution with her twin sister come together in a scene that packs tremendous emotional power.
This book is difficult to pigeonhole into a genre and that’s part of its appeal. Walsh draws on elements of mystery, romance, historical fiction and the paranormal and beautifully blends these into a suspenseful and poignant story of love, loss, and redemption. It takes a gifted writer to make these diverse elements work, while building the suspense in a way that is authentic. Walsh is such a writer and I can’t wait to read more from her.
Walsh is the co-founder with Kathleen Bolton of the popular fiction-writing blog, Writer Unboxed.