"Michelle Bailat-Jones has written a stark, haunting novel that explores the binds of family, of marriage, and of mothering and being mothered. In the wake of Ella’s father’s death, what appears to be an ending is in fact the beginning of unraveling a life’s worth of mysteries, as well as what it means to forgive others and forgive oneself. This is a gorgeous, sea-drenched book of exceptional lyricism that drew me in from the very first page.”—Anne Valente, author of Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down
"Unfurled is a poignant novel about the chaos of life, and the mind and heart. Bailat-Jones writes with clarity, control, beauty, and a crystalline understanding of people—our fragility and strength, flaws and virtues, wounds and recovery. A wonderful accomplishment." —Ethel Rohan, author of The Weight of Him
For more than twenty years, Ella has learned to live without her mother, Maggie, who disappeared into a fog of mental illness when Ella turned ten. Despite this trauma, Ella has forged ahead, becoming a veterinarian, getting married, and most of all, developing a deep, trusting bond with her father, John, a ferry captain in Seattle.
Ella’s contented life is shattered when her father is hit by a car and killed. Going through his papers, she learns that her father maintained a secret relationship with her mother. The unsettling questions raised by her father’s death and her mother’s unexpected reappearance sends Ella on a journey to discover the truth about the woman who abandoned her and the man who raised her, a journey that threatens her marriage, her unborn child, and ultimately, her sanity.
"Set in the Pacific Northwest, Bailat-Jones’s latest (following Fog Island Mountains) is a captivating exploration of bereavement, guilt, and forgiveness. Veterinarian Ella has a close relationship with her ferryboat captain father, John Tomlinson, and a contained life with her scientist husband, Neil. Her composed life implodes after her father is killed in an accident, leaving Ella unable to cope with her emotions, especially after discovering John had contact with Maggie, her long-absent mother. Maggie left when Ella was 10, and her childhood memories depict Maggie as an unmoored person given to bouts of irrational outbursts. Ella lashes out at Neil over John’s betrayal, deluding herself into believing the two of them had been united against Maggie. As she grapples with John’s hidden knowledge of her mother’s whereabouts, Ella discovers that she is pregnant. Devastated by John’s death, and reeling from discoveries he kept from her, Ella becomes a destructive force in her own life. It’s only after Ella finally seeks out Maggie that she is able to chart her own course. Bailat-Jones creates a complex and nuanced portrait of a family torn apart by mental illness and of the rebuilding process, making this novel both fascinating and stirring."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)