Only One Life by Ashley Farley



A reunion between an estranged mother and daughter opens a world of secrets in a poignant novel by the bestselling author of Magnolia Nights.

Julia Martin grew up wealthy, but it wasn’t until she met her husband, Jack, that she knew true happiness. He made her feel worthy and loved. Their marriage was also an escape from her sister’s bullying, her father’s scrutiny, and her chilly and enigmatic mother. But when tragedy strikes on the night she gives birth, Julia’s happiness is shattered. She has no choice but to return home to her family’s South Carolina mansion, where the grief and guilt buried in her mother’s past await her.

As a young woman trapped in a bitter marriage, Julia’s mother, Iris, once needed her own means of escape. In Lily, she found a best friend. In the flower shop they opened, she discovered independence. Then came a transgression—unforgivable, unforgettable, and unresolved—that changed Iris’s life forever.

Now, in Iris’s most desperate hour, her only hope is to regain the trust of the daughter she loves—and to share the secrets of the heart that could rebuild a family’s broken bonds.

My review:

I enjoyed this book. The book is told in three parts. Part One is the present with Julia and Jack. They have been married happily for 15 years, and after several miscarriages Julia is about to give birth to their first child. They are both ecstatic. They  have a happy life, even though they have very little money. Then tragedy strikes, and Julia has to face the reality of leaving their home forever. Part Two focuses on Iris, from her childhood, meeting Max and their courtship, her friendship with Lily, and catching up to the present. Part Three is after Julia comes home.

There is so much going on in this book. Julia feels betrayed by her mother’s inaction when her father kicked her out when she was pregnant and wanted to marry Jack. She has no relationship with her father and sister Alex at all. Going home is hard, but she has no other choice. Her return is the catalyst for Iris to examine her life closely and make some difficult decisions.  An event in Iris’s past is still affecting her to this day. Julia and Gus, Lily’s son, grow closer but questions must be answered before anyone can move on with their lives.

This isn’t a romance novel. If anything, it’s a love story between mother and daughter, and also between best friends. Lily and Iris have a lifelong friendship that remains through some huge upsets, requiring forgiveness from both parties. Their bond is unshakable. I liked how Julia finally found her place in the world. Even though she and Jack were incredibly happy together, I had the impression something was still missing for Julia even before he died. Now she seems complete.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

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About the author

Author-photo-for-webAshley Farley is the bestselling author of the Sweeney Sisters series as well as Sweet Tea TuesdaysMagnolia NightsBeyond the GardenNell and Lady, and other books about women for women. Her characters are mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives facing real-life situations, and her goal is to keep readers turning pages with stories that resonate long after the last word.

In addition to writing, she is an amateur photographer, an exercise junkie, and a wife and mother. While she has lived in Richmond, Virginia, for more than two decades, part of her heart remains in the salty marshes of the South Carolina Lowcountry, where she grew up. Through the eyes of her characters, she captures the moss-draped trees, delectable cuisine, and kindhearted folk with lazy drawls that make the area so unique. For more information, visit

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