Review of School of Daughters by Kate René MacKenzie

A School of Daughters

Kate René MacKenzie

December 25, 2020

Red Lace Books

Blurb: After 22 years of marriage, Kate Willoughby loves her husband, Brian, with an even greater passion than when she spoke her vows. “My world spins on his axis,” she admits. But when Kate finds a love letter to Brian from “Micky,” she’s torn between proving Brian’s innocence and nailing him to the wall with his guilt. Seeking comfort and guidance, Kate turns to the one constant in her life: her animals. No surprise since Kate’s a champion for throwaways—discarded dogs and cats, abandoned horses bound for slaughter, and all creatures great and small. But she never imagined she would become a throwaway herself. Yet few things are as they seem. Finding evidence that Brian still loves her, Kate is at a fork. Will she follow her human heart…or animal instincts?

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“Love you, Kate.”
My heart swells, spilling a tear. “Love you more.”

This is a ritual of 22 years. “Love you more.” Imagine writing the words into a card that you’ll slip into the side pocket of your husband’s case and then making the unsavory discovery that there’s a chance he loves someone else more. Interwoven with beautifully written passages of Kate René MacKenzie’s observations of the natural world are the equally haunting passages of a woman who discovers that her husband has been perpetrating lies and mistrust. That the man she thought she knew may not have truly existed.

It is painful to read about a woman’s world unraveling, her coming to painful truths about a relationship she had put so much trust and reverence in but MacKenzie writes so well that the reader is hooked. She tells the story of her childhood in a dysfunctional family but how that reality did not eclipse her dreams. Her connection to the natural world around her that drew her to Alaska and then how she came to be on a ranch in Arizona, discovering another natural world.

Somehow considering its genre of women’s fiction–probably due to MacKenzie’s storytelling talent–A School of Daughters is a page-turner, especially when MacKenzie accepts that her marriage is ending, that she has been played the fool by this dishonest, philandering man, and that her once naïve trust doesn’t mean that she has to stay a fool. And, yes, the reader is very much hoping that Brian Willoughby will get his comeuppance.

Throughout A School of Daughters, MacKenzie weighs the good things that Willoughby did, wondering how he could have put up with dog hair in his fancy car or how he could have cared for animals to the extent he did or even mow her mother’s grass. But, alas the world is not black and white. Peter Pan may never grow up. He may continue to pursue his youth and, perhaps, the youth of others. His self-absorbed nature may never wane. He will put his current youthful adventure at the center of his existence, betraying those who counted on him, loved him. If they are not part of his current interest, than what can they expect? Good and bad never come into play in self-involvement. The ego wants what the ego wants.

The daughter of missionaries, Kate’s mother spent part of her childhood in China where female infanticide occurred by the act of drowning the unwanted baby daughters. She coined the term “school of daughters.” How do you drown your newborn daughter? This raises a theme of valuing women but also of valuing life, all life whether it’s two-legged or four-legged. And, how we must live our lives: well and without regret.

In A School of Daughters Kate René MacKenzie shows that she is a writer of great emotion, seeing the poetry in all creatures and in the sunrise as well as the sunset, and that maybe what we metaphorically view as the sunset, the ending, the abandoning, can be, in itself, an opportunity.



5 out of 5 butterflies

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