Book Review: Helen Lamb, “Three Kinds of Kissing”

I was immediately smitten with Helen Lamb’s Three Kinds of Kissing the moment its publication was announced by Vagabond Voices online. From its fantastic cover art to its intriguing summary, I knew it needed to be at the top of my tbr pile. Now, imagine my delight when I went into Blackwell’s in search of the book and left with the last copy on the shelf. Best purchase I’ve made recently, I can tell you that.

Three Kinds of Kissing transports readers to a small-town Scottish community where they meet the book’s two central characters, Grace and Olive. Told from Grace’s point of view, the story weaves in and out of a four-year time period (between the late 1960s and early 1970s) littered with secrets, death, and the end of innocence. And, it’s these tumultuous events that eventually send one into the wind and leaves the other questioning what it means to grow up.

Can we outrun the pain of our past? Do the consequences of our actions allow any room for redemption? Does adulthood truly save us from the mistakes seemingly reserved for our youth? It’s questions like these I kept coming back to as I read Three Kinds of Kissing. Lamb effortlessly sets up emotional scenarios that feel more real than they do fictitious, causing readers to pause and do a quick sweep over their own lives. What we learn from this book is that unsaid words don’t equate truth and that pristine doors often hide heavily rusted interiors.

If I could recommend any book this year to someone, Three Kinds of Kissing would be it. What a wonderful work of fiction by a woman who had such a brilliant gift for writing.

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