Synopsis for This Must Be the Place by Kate Racculia (2010):
The Darby-Jones boardinghouse in Ruby Falls, New York, is home to Mona Jones and her daughter, Oneida, two loners and self-declared outcasts who have formed a perfectly insular family unit: the two of them and the three eclectic boarders living in their house. But their small, quiet life is upended when Arthur Rook shows up in the middle of a nervous breakdown, devastated by the death of his wife, carrying a pink shoe box containing all his wife's mementos and keepsakes, and holding a postcard from sixteen years ago, addressed to Mona but never sent. Slowly the contents of the box begin to fit together to tell a story—one of a powerful friendship, a lost love, and a secret that, if revealed, could change everything that Mona, Oneida, and Arthur know to be true. Or maybe the stories the box tells and the truths it brings to life will teach everyone about love—how deeply it runs, how strong it makes us, and how even when all seems lost, how tightly it brings us together. With emotional accuracy and great energy, This Must Be the Place introduces memorable, charming characters that refuse to be forgotten.
I'm classifying this as a YA read in terms of the Reading Challenge because the story is really about (a) choices Amy (Arthur's deceased wife) and Mona made as teenagers and (b) Oneida.
Racculia is dead-on at describing not only Arthur's anguish at the unexpected loss of his wife and the realization that he knew almost nothing about her past, but also at breathing life into a fantastic young adult in Oneida. Oneida's multidimensional, cool without knowing it, and the true heart of this story.
The so-called mystery doesn't really exist. Even though Arthur is completely clueless, the reader has some context and the benefit of knowing the contents of the postcard written by Amy during her brief live appearance in the Prologue. And I think that's okay because the true worth of the story is in Arthur learning about his wife's greatest secret, plus the impact on Oneida and Mona.
My overall personal rating of This Must Be the Place is a B+.