The Milestone Tapes – Ashley Mackler-Paternostro Review

The Milestone Tapes
Ashley Mackler-Paternostro

Jenna Chamberland never wanted anything more than to be a wife and mother. That is, until she realized that her life was ending after a three-year battle against breast cancer. Now, all she really wants is more time.

With 4,320 hours left to live, Jenna worries for her loved ones and what she knows awaits them on the other side: Gabe will have to make the slip from husband to widower, left alone to raise their seven-year-old daughter; Mia will be forced to cope with life without her mother. In a moment of reflection, Jenna decides to record a set of audiocassettes — The Milestone Tapes – leaving her voice behind as a legacy for her daughter.

Nine years later, Mia is a precocious sixteen-year-old and her life is changing all around, all she wants is her mother. Through the tapes, Jenna’s voice returns to teach Mia the magic of life, her words showing her daughter how to spread her wings and embrace the coming challenges with humor, grace and hope.

THE MILESTONE TAPES is the journey of love between a parent and child, and of the bond that holds them when life no longer can.

Starting this novel, I knew it was going to be tough to read purely because the subject matter is already so desolate.  A mother, after discovering she is losing a battle with cancer, decides to leave her daughter a set of tapes to mark the momentous occasions of her daughter’s life. Mackler-Paternostro paints an extremely vivid picture of the realities of cancer. It was truly heartbreaking how Jenna was forced to allow someone else to take care of Mia.  Watching Jenna’s gradual demise was brutal, and I pitied her family.  Cancer always seems to destroy an entire family when it destroys a person.  The first half of the book revolved around Jenna and her reconnection with her sister, as well as her acceptance and preparation for her death.

The second half of the book focused on Mia as a teenage girl trying to cope with the loss of her mother.  Honestly, I sometimes found Mia’s reactions to be false for a teenager. Sometimes, she just felt too well-behaved and I found myself more angry with Gabe than she ever seemed to be.  It felt like such a betrayal for him to find someone new even if that IS what Jenna wanted.  Reading about Mia growing older and her experiences mirroring Jenna’s was a nice touch, but it did feel a little cliché at times. The Milestone Tapes were important to Mia and did help her at difficult moments, but they weren’t really central.  At the heart of this novel is a mother’s love for her daughter and the daughter trying to retain a part of her mother, even after her death.

This book did make me tear up at times.  A touching story of love and family, Mackler-Paternostro is a gifted new writer.

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