A School of Daughters

Fiction - Womens
319 Pages
Reviewed on 05/16/2023
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Shrabastee Chakraborty for Readers' Favorite

Although Kate was not initially thrilled with the move to the ranch in Arizona, she finds comfort in the company of her furry and feathered friends. Moreover, Brian Willoughby, her loving husband of twenty-two years, is always at her side, even though he has to commute frequently to his workplace in Anchorage. The affirmations of love exchanged between the couple on every possible occasion keep her going. Kate’s life is following a smooth course until she discovers a card from another woman in Brian’s bag. Is this a mere fling, or is it something serious? How can you reconcile with the fact that after twenty-two long years of bliss, your marriage means nothing? What will Kate do now that her life seems to have come to a standstill? A School of Daughters by Kate René MacKenzie will reveal the answers.

Based on actual events, A School of Daughters is full of raw, visceral emotions that moved me to my core. It chronicles all the stages of Kate’s grief, from initial denial to eventual acceptance. The changes came about gradually, one small step at a time. She made me into a companion in her journey, where I was rooting for her and supporting her during one of the fiercest battles she's had to face. She openly shares her most intimate thoughts and vulnerable moments. I empathized with Kate when she clung to the hope that Brian would reconcile with her despite all evidence to the contrary. Her astute observations and profound realizations about the inherent differences between men and women hit home.

As she dug deeper into the matter, more threads unraveled, and past indiscretions came to light. Some parts of the story read like a sleuthing event that caught my attention. Frequent glimpses of her disturbed childhood help me admire Kate even more. I realized why she felt such an intense bonding with her non-human friends, especially the helpless, stray ones. Her kindness and all-consuming love for the broken animals make her noble. The life lessons and epiphanies she gathers from nature and fellow non-human friends made this story wholesome. Kate René MacKenzie has produced an empowering read that will stay with me and continue to inspire me for a long time.

Ronél Steyn

For Kate Willoughby, life is good. She has been married to the love of her life for 22 years. She has spent that time unconditionally loving her husband and taking care of him. Brian is set to leave on another business trip while Kate stays behind taking care of the horses and other animals. As always, she slips a card into the outside pocket of his briefcase the night before his departure. What she finds in the same outside pocket rocks Kate’s world. Turned upside by the discovery of her husband’s affair, Kate reminisces about decisions made in her past that have led her to where she now finds herself. A School of Daughters by Kate René MacKenzie is a story of love and loss, reflection and acceptance.

Written in the first-person narrative, Kate René MacKenzie ensures this story touches the reader on a personal level. When life suddenly throws a bump in the road, human nature is to either find an easier way or forge ahead. This time, the main character cannot find another way and has to walk the road as intended. Sometimes these bumps are covered in thorns and the only way over them is to belly-crawl. I enjoyed the analogies used to explain experiences and MacKenzie's character growth, which to me is very important, is evident from the first page to the last. A School of Daughters is recommended for a more mature reader even though it’s not explicit; rather, each page is saturated in emotion that you can’t help but feel.

Asher Syed

A School of Daughters by Kate Rene MacKenzie is a contemporary women's fiction novel that centers around a woman named Kate Willoughby whose life completely implodes when she discovers her husband of twenty-two years, Brian, has had an affair. Kate distances herself from the situation in order to lick her wound and allow her heart and mind to settle so she can make a rational decision on whether or not to return to Brian. Kate's Arizona ranch with rescue animals proves to be a sanctuary and she finds comfort in a discourse with the animals. The reader's ability to view Kate from an uncommon perspective is unique and is what sets the book apart from other novels with the 'does she or doesn't she' theme of healing.

It's not difficult to root for a woman who saves animals who were unlikely to keep on keepin' on if Kate hadn't opened up her ranch and offered them protection. A School of Daughters explores a journey that nobody ever wants to take and the mixture of anger, fear, and sometimes even denial when a relationship spanning over two decades is shaken by a partner's worst nightmare. Kate is described by author Kate Rene MacKenzie as trusting and trustworthy of Brian to a fault, but is there really such a thing? I think anyone who charges Kate with this accusation is low-key victim blaming and hyper-cynical of what it means to be a true partner to someone. It's interesting to witness Kate's evolution and the driver behind it is the deep dive she takes into the full scope of Brian's infidelity. From a literary standpoint, the book is well written and feels authentic, and whether a reader has had a broken heart or not, Kate's story is a worthy read.