book review,  Books

Book Review: The Lemonade Year

Looking for a change of pace from my recent reads, the gift of book mail in the form of  The Lemonade Year by Amy Willoughby-Burle filled the bill nicely.  This book was emotional, complex, and beautifully written. Check it out:


Book Review: The Lemonade YearThe Lemonade Year Published by Shadow Mountain on April 3, 2018
Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
Pages: 352
Buy on Amazon


Nina’s once-sweet life has unexpectedly turned sour. Her marriage is over, her job is in jeopardy, and her teenage daughter is slipping away from her. Then her father dies and issues with Nina’s mother come to a head; her estranged brother, Ray, comes home; and her sister, Lola, is tempted to blow a big family secret out of the water. They say the truth will set you free, but first it will make a huge mess of things.

All Nina’s got left is her final photography assignment shooting images for the book 32 Ways to Make Lemonade. Well, that and the attention of a younger man, but Oliver’s on-again-off-again romantic interest in her ebbs and flows so much she is seasick. And then Jack, her ex-husband, shows up, wanting to get back together.

As Nina struggles to find a way through her complicated relationships and to uncover her true path, she discovers just how valuable a second chance at life and happiness can be.


The Lemonade Year by Amy Willoughby-Burle is a wonderfully written story about family and forgiveness.  It is not, at times, a happy story. This is not a light read – Nina’s family puts the “d” in “dysfunctional”, and the characters are all, in their own way, a bit broken.

It is this brokenness, however, that fascinated me, as well as the secret the family kept (which you will likely figure out on your own before it is fully revealed – or, you will THINK you have figured it out, at least.)  Willoughby-Burle’s has created some pretty complex family dynamics and through the course of the book, each of the characters has their own sort of self-realization and growth.

We don’t see much of Nina’s “once-sweet life” as described on the back cover – when we meet her, her marriage is in tatters, the lemonade recipe book she is photographing will likely be the last for the company she works for, and her teenage daughter is rebelling and asking to live with her dad. Nina’s life is pretty much a hot mess.

She is the rock of the family, however. Due to an unexplained (at first) accident, her sister Lola now lives with a traumatic brain injury that has robbed her of her memory, short-term and long, and she lives as an artist with heavy assistance on Post-it notes to remember everything – her plans, where things are – even the name of her boyfriend – to whom she hasn’t quite let in on her secret.

Lola was actually one of my favorite characters – she has what I would consider the heaviest burden and she is the most balanced of the bunch, not that she didn’t have her own battles. Her memory problems, and how she handles them, served to lighten things while keeping everything in perspective.

Her estranged brother Ray comes home after the death of her father, and he has a big secret of his own. My gosh, he is complicated and infuriating, living in a world of hurt and self-punishment for all that he’s done wrong.

Her dad is in a nursing home until his death, and she handles everything when he passes. Her relationship with her dad was special, and through the nursing home she meets Oliver, a younger man. A relationship ensues, complicated and confusing; Oliver seems to have something weighing on his mind – I had wild suspicions as to what it was. (I can’t believe I guessed correctly.)

Oh – and Mom is a recovering alcoholic; really, they all have issues to face – issues in their childhood, issues with their relationships, lies they tell themselves, lies they tell each other. It’s complex and messy and emotional – which the title “The Lemonade Year” definitely doesn’t quite imply, unless you look at it as each character is trying to make lemons into lemonade.

Sound heavy? Ok, so it is. However, it is also beautifully wrought and crafted in a way that will make you think, to piece together what’s missing, to judge, to put yourself in their shoes. If you are a fan of Liane Moriarty, this is the book for you, as it shares that same vibe – complex characters, emotional at times, and definitely thought-provoking.

Give The Lemonade Year a try. I think you’ll like it.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.


  • Amy Willoughby-Burle

    Hi! So here I was googling my own book to see if it still had a life out there in the world , and I came across your review. I’m sure someone probably sent it to me way back when the book came out, and my apologies for either not seeing it or whatever might have occured. BUT, I can’t tell you how flattered I am to read it now. Thank you so much for your review and endorsement. It means so much to me!

    • Jenn

      I LOVED this book! I get sent books and I share reviews with the PR companies so (hopefully) they will share it, but I never know what happens after I send it out.

      Clearly, however, I’m not promoting my own posts enough. I’m so glad you found this though!!

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