by Dawn Adams Cole
Skye Sarac, Reviewer
A story of love, loss, and rebirth
Spanning the years 1930–2014, Drops of Cerulean chronicles the lives of Ilona, the daughter of a Greek restaurateur, who marries into a prominent Houston family; her son, Cadmus, who becomes a professor and then moves into a retirement home after his husband passes away; and Delphina, an anxiety-ridden woman with a mysterious recurring dream.
Dawn Adams Cole was born and raised in Houston. She received her BA from the University of St. Thomas and her MEd from Harvard University. Dawn wrote Drops of Cerulean while serving as a high school teacher and administrator. She hopes to create thought-provoking literary fiction that challenges readers to live deeply and appreciate interconnectedness. She lives in The Heights with her husband, Burton, and her daughters, Caroline and Elizabeth.
Before reading this book, I looked up the word “cerulean,” and the images that came up showed a deep, rich-looking blue, which perfectly fits the characters in Drops of Cerulean. The plot of the story spans several generations of a wealthy family and depicts the relationship between them and the choices they make, all of which have lasting and profound impacts. The story itself is nothing unusual—an upper-class family with lots of problems who don’t always get along—yet there is something about the way the author brings these characters to life that makes this story stand out.
The strength of the writing lies in the characters, each of whom contain so many layers that it is almost impossible to describe them in a few short paragraphs. However, I can certainly try. This is not a story with a hero or a villain, rather, each and every character has their own strengths and flaws, and I found myself experiencing anger, sympathy, and resentment toward individual characters throughout the course of the story. Ilona was certainly my favorite character, and her courage and grace throughout the story, even as she was ridiculed, belittled, and ostracized by those closest to her, was inspiring and powerful. Even though I questioned some of her decisions, my heart ached for her as she struggled to find acceptance within her family.
For one, there is the relationship between Cadmus and Robert, which provided the backbone for the story. At a time when the gay rights movement was in its early stages, the depiction of Cadmus and Robert as they try to maintain their love for each other while concealing their relationship was heartbreaking. I enjoyed seeing both the negative and positive aspects of their relationship, and I appreciated how the author acknowledged the depth and complexity of their life together instead of resorting to stereotypes. I also enjoyed seeing Cadmus’s journey as he struggled to reconcile the love he had for his family with the love he had for his husband and desire to pursue his own path apart from his family. In many ways, this book was about the pull of tradition versus the desire for individuality, and the author does a beautiful job depicting each character’s unique response to this very common dilemma.
Despite the strained relationships between some of the main characters, the concept of family is at the core of this novel, and the ending, which was both unexpected and beautifully written, hints at the idea that family can encompass much more than a blood relation. My favorite part of the story—and I won’t give anything away—is when one of the main characters upends an important realization about her family, and that realization has profound impacts on her self-perception as well as the relationships in her life. Even if I didn’t always agree with the characters, this is a beautifully written story that left me feeling connected to the Doyle clan, especially Cadmus and Ilona.
Definitely five stars from me.