Thoughts on books, family, and life in one impressive package.

Title: The Charm BraceletFall Book Review Button
Author: Viola Shipman
ISBN: 9781250071323
No. of Pages: 304
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Origins: Thomas Dunne Books
Release Date: 22 March 2016


“Through an heirloom charm bracelet, three women will rediscover the importance of family and a passion for living as each charm changes their lives.

On her birthday each year, Lolly’s mother gave her a charm, along with the advice that there is nothing more important than keeping family memories alive, and so Lolly’s charm bracelet would be a constant reminder of that love.

Now seventy and starting to forget things, Lolly knows time is running out to reconnect with a daughter and granddaughter whose lives have become too busy for Lolly or her family stories.

But when Arden, Lolly’s daughter, receives an unexpected phone call about her mother, she and granddaughter Lauren rush home. Over the course of their visit, Lolly reveals the story behind each charm on her bracelet, and one by one the family stories help Lolly, Arden, and Lauren reconnect in a way that brings each woman closer to finding joy, love, and faith.

A compelling story of three women and a beautiful reminder of the preciousness of family, The Charm Bracelet is a keepsake you’ll cherish long after the final page.”

My Thoughts: Long-time readers of mine will know that I am not a fan of women’s fiction. I tend to cringe at the saccharine sweetness of such stories where all problems miraculously solve themselves within 288 pages. I find the characters are poorly developed, if at all, and usually end up being simple archetypes that do nothing but highlight my issues with such stories. However, when you are an avid reader, you will find that more often than not the right book will cross your path at exactly the right moment. Such is the case with Viola Shipman’s The Charm Bracelet.

Not my normal fare at all, The Charm Bracelet is the story of three generations of women, of which all three are at a crossroads in their life. They come together one magical late spring holiday weekend. Problems are confronted, pasts are revisited, and family stories are shared in abundance. The three women reconnect and rediscover what it means to truly live. (See? Even the description has me gagging at the sweetness.)

What had me start the book and kept me reading were not the characters, the setting, or the writing. The characters are one-dimensional, the setting is idealized, and the writing is sentimental at the best of times and just plain basic everywhere else. However, the mini-lessons to be found through the descriptions of and narratives behind each charm are the heart of the story. These lessons are sentimental, but that does not diminish their importance. Life is so serious these days that we all need reminders to have fun, to let go of control, to seek out the type of love we deserve, to follow our passions, etc. Lolly’s charm bracelet provides the necessary visual reminders of such lessons.

Interestingly enough, Viola Shipman is really Wade Rouse, an author known for his nonfiction work. He wrote The Charm Bracelet as an ode to his grandmothers and their charm bracelets, and he did a decent job of it. Lolly, an amalgam of his own two grandmothers, is a larger-than-life character that makes you wish she was yours. Meanwhile, her bracelet, the traditions around it, and the memories behind it make you wish you had a similar tradition in your family. Her poignant stories are the highlights of the novel because of their simplicity and joy, no matter what tragedy might be underlying them. They reiterate your faith in humanity and remind you that while life is indeed a journey, it is still up to you whether that journey will be joyless or joyful.

For such a simple book, The Charm Bracelet had me thinking deep thoughts about my own life both while reading and after finishing. The one lesson that hit a bit too close to home was the one about living your passions. According to Lolly, if you follow your dreams, the rest of life’s little mundane details – like money, shelter, food, etc. – will resolve themselves. We all know that is rarely the case. However, it did get me questioning my own passions. I may not have all of the answers yet, but I am thinking about them in a way I have not done since my first year in college, and for that I am grateful.

The Charm Bracelet is a stereotypical women’s fiction novel, but it is the perfect book to assuage roiling post-election emotions. The story’s simplicity is soothing, and Lolly is a great reminder of the importance of being true to oneself. We all need such reminders of love and acceptance these days.

The Charm Bracelet by Viola Shipman

BOTTOM LINE: For me, the perfect book at the perfect time.

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