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Lola and Duncan have suffered an unimaginable loss that all parents dread – that of the death their child. Losing their daughter Clarissa in a tragic accident has caused them to drift apart and deal with their grief in completely different ways. Lola wants to face her pain head on while Duncan refuses to acknowledge it at all.

To try and save their marriage, Duncan plans a trip to San Francisco. Lola isn’t keen on spending time alone with Duncan or being so far away from their farm in Somerset, but she grits her teeth and gets it over with. She doesn’t anticipate that she’ll let her hair down for the first time in two years, or that she’ll find her dream home in Napa Valley.

Duncan buys the house when he sees how happy it makes Lola, which gives her something to focus on other than Clarissa. Lola starts to climb out of her depression, but Duncan is secretly battling demons of his own. He lies about his financial situation and his problems at work, leaving Lola on her own for most of the novel. The house in Napa Valley brings about a new set of problems for Lola and Duncan, but at the same time teaches them so much about each other and themselves.

Although the plot is predictable, the story manages to sensitively capture the effect losing a child must have on a marriage. Despite the upsetting subject matter, it’s not a depressing novel to read. It ends on a hopeful note and explores how to kick-start your life again after a series of heartbreaking events. Learning to Speak American touches on some heart-wrenching issues, but ultimately lacks the impact to make it a book you’d want to read more than once.

★★

Learning to Speak American was published by Twenty7 on 14 July 2016. 

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