When Andrea Lochen approached me to do a review of her book, Versions of Her, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. Although I haven’t had the pleasure of reading her books before, I liked the premise of this one.
Versions of Her
On the surface, Melanie Kingstad-Keyes’s life is the picture of success. She’s a tenure track professor at a prestigious university and has a perfect husband. But a recent miscarriage has left her reeling and her marriage tenuous. Selling her family’s Lake Indigo summer home, which she hasn’t visited in fifteen years, feels like the perfect distraction from her problems. Now, she only needs to persuade her younger sister, Kelsey, to go along with her plan.
Stuck in a dead-end job, Kelsey Kingstad bounces from one doomed relationship to the next as she struggles to jumpstart her adult life. Carrying the guilt of her mother’s untimely death, Kelsey is reluctant to let go of the Victorian house filled with memories of her mom and their childhood.
When the sisters find a mysterious hidden door, Melanie and Kelsey discover that they can directly view their mother’s younger years and learn all the secrets she never shared with them. Delving into her memories is fun at first, but Melanie and Kelsey quickly uncover difficult truths, throwing their own life choices into question and making them wonder if they ever truly knew their mother. Visiting the past may help them find closure, but the cost could be steeper than they realize.
A short excerpt of Versions of Her
Kelsey dropped her overnight bag on the four-post bed. Who says I have to stay in my old tiny bedroom when this one’s available? It didn’t make sense for her to sweat and toss and turn when she could be sprawled out coolly and peacefully. She doubted her mom would have minded, and her dad wasn’t there and probably wouldn’t ever be there again before the sale of the house. Only Melanie would care, but her sister could deal with it. She hung up the dress in her parents’ closet then used the bathroom.
Melanie was leaning in the master bedroom’s doorway when Kelsey came out. “You’re going to stay in here?” she asked casually, but Kelsey could see her hands were clenched in tight balls.
“Yeah. Why not?” Kelsey responded equally as casually. “No one else is using it, and I’ll be much more comfortable. Besides, I don’t think Mom and Dad would mind, do you?”
Melanie shook her head stiffly. Maybe she was kicking herself for not staking a claim on the room first. It probably hadn’t occurred to her because her room was so much nicer than Kelsey’s. If she had, Kelsey would’ve been happy to stay in the bedroom with the tapestry. “I’ll have to take one of the queen-size quilts to the Laundromat,” she said.
“I could do it,” Kelsey offered. “Or I could sleep with the twin-size quilt tonight. I really don’t care.” She bent down to scratch behind Sprocket’s ears and saw his tongue was hanging out in a doggy grin. She would need to set out a bowl of water for him soon. “So what is this thing of Mom’s you wanted to show me?” She tried to sound appropriately enthusiastic.
But Melanie’s eagerness seemed to have lessened somewhat. She was still staring into their parents’ bedroom as if Kelsey had desecrated it somehow. “Right.” Melanie slowly returned her attention to her sister, and Kelsey got the distinct impression she was being appraised. “It’s in my room,” she finally said and ducked into the doorway of the middle bedroom. “But we should probably sit down first.”
Though Andrea Lochen had dreamed of being an author since the third grade, she didn’t realize creative writing was “an actual thing” until she stumbled upon the program at the University of Wisconsin as a college freshman. After graduating from college, she earned her Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Michigan and later achieved her dream of becoming a published author.
Andrea is now the author of three novels: The Repeat Year, Imaginary Things, and Versions of Her. She teaches creative writing at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee at Waukesha, encouraging young writers to learn the craft and pursue their own writing dreams. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, two small children, and their adorably fluffy dog, Maddy. In her free time, she likes to bake cupcakes and cakes, see musicals and plays, and read as much as humanly possible.
The book releases today. Get it on Amazon.
My review of Versions of Her 4/5
I claim to be a realist even while reading copious amounts of romance, so I’m not always keen on reading stories with ‘unreal’ ideas like time travel. However, having lost my own mother rather recently, I could so relate to the need for Melanie and Kelsey to find out more about their Mom’s past.
The story had me hooked from the start – it had so many great elements! Good characters that were most believable. The author dealt with some really tough issues of sexuality, infertility, low self-worth, finding love and dealing guilt in such a wonderful way.
I love how the feelings of inadequacy of both sisters was resolved through their ‘meetings’ with their mother. In accepting and forgiving her and themselves, they healed and moved on. As always it was love and understanding that won the day.
The book had other elements that I loved – a beach-side house, dogs, suspense, romance.
I’m certainly going to be reading other books from Andrea and am so glad I read this one.