From Novareylin Reviews 

This is a really thoughtful, thought provoking and deeply spiritual book. Funnily enough the main character doesn't want anything to do with religion due to the way she was raised but it's the journey that made it spiritual for me not her thoughts on religion.

And Mara's journey was intense. She figured out very early in childhood that she couldn't trust anyone, that everyone leaves, that she wasn't worthy of love. It was intense reading what she was trying to do to fill that void and how much she hated herself afterward. And scary too because I know I've been there and it's hard to read a book that is just so real about life and love and the search for happiness when you honestly think you don't deserve any.

This book isn't all dreary though! Don't get me wrong, it's about lessons and consequences, sure, but it's also about finding THAT person and doing the right thing in life and learning how to not hate yourself. Mara's choices in life varied but you can see her growth and I loved that about this plot. You can also see that she wasn't trying to push people away she just didn't know any other way to protect herself. I felt like I grew with her, cried with her, laughed and smiled.

If you're religious I would read this with an open mind. Mara didn't get the way she was overnight. Her father was a preacher and a hypocrite but Mara realizes not everyone that is a Christian is a hypocrite. Again, it's her journey that makes this so interesting and there is quite a bit of spiritual learning that she has to go through to move on. So, religious? Definitely read with an open mind. Not religious but don't like books with religion? I actually found the religious parts quite funny and a bit of a comic relief with her feelings on the entire thing.

Ending was just as good as the entire book. The characters are deep. I loved each one of them so much, although I knew who I was pulling for at the end.

From DZS Reviews

 First thing, I did manage to get in a 28 mile bike ride, fold and put away 5 baskets of laundry, gut my oldest’s sons room with him so painting could begin, and I also made some nice play doh creations with my 3-year-old before I was sucked into yet another novel.  I sat down late in the afternoon yesterday with my iPad (aren’t I techno savvy?  Though saying techno savvy makes me ineligible to be techno savvy, I believe).  ANYWAY, I sat down to start a few chapters in The Truth About Dandelions by Hayley Linfield.  That was my intention anyway….a few chapters….let’s just say my husband ordered pizza and my kids did not get baths. (they did play in the sprinkler, does that count?). 

 I was intrigued by Mara, the main character in this book.  Mara is now finishing college and is a bit of a whore.  She has experienced some horrible things in her childhood and needless to say…she is trying to lose herself in these one night encounters.  She does not want more nor expect more from them.  So she thinks.  She is an English Literature major and is currently working on her thesis on 19th century English Literature and women whose paths are tainted and unhappy.  Think Charlotte Bronte, Tess of the D’Ubervilles, etc.  You know that Mara has to be a romantic at heart if this is a subject that she feels so passionate towards.  You (the reader) want Mara to find true love and stop sleeping around. I did.    Mara’s character is so fragile…though she comes across as tough.  You want her to heal and close her legs (pardon my bluntness).  Mara questions why Tess and other 19th century characters do not get a happy ending, you will have to see if Mara gets one.

From Jennifer Cox, Bullet News

At first I wasn’t sure if I liked Mara, the main character in local author Hayley Linfield’s first novel, The Truth About Dandelions. But as I read, I realized that it was what happened to Mara that I didn’t like.

I have to say, while I love to read and usually read books quickly, unable to put them down, I am not one to remember or dwell on details. A book often leaves me with a certain feeling, some thoughts, and some sort of meaning comes out of it. I learn something about myself, and how I feel about different issues, or people. I know that a book is good if it made me feel something. This book made me feel anger, sadness, disgust, relief and happiness.

The book centres around Mara’s life as a typical university student studying classic English literature. She spends too much of her time partying and sleeping around, trying desperately to bury her childhood emotional scars. It seems so contradictory that Mara reads Charlotte Bronte and Thomas Hardy novels, full of society’s expectations of what is proper and yet she behaves like a tramp. Throughout the book Linfield makes effective use of point of view when she switches from first person to third-person omniscient to take the story back to Mara’s childhood. We are immediately there, like in a movie where the scene suddenly changes to a different time and place.

I found the drunken anonymous sex scenes tough to get through because I knew that it was really damaging to Mara and I worried for her. I enjoyed the flashbacks throughout the book to Mara’s childhood that reveal why she struggles with extreme low self esteem and bitterness.

As a child, Mara is dealt a number of blows. She loses her apparently religious father when he leaves her mother for another woman. Her mother, who becomes bitter and harsh, is murdered by a homeless man. Mara must go live with her father and the other woman in London, England. He has become a drunk and he ends up committing suicide. If this is not tragic enough, Mara’s Grandma dies in a plane crash on the way to London to rescue her. In the middle of these tragedies, we see Mara has become hardened already to life when the young girl tells her Grandma to stop crying about her daughter’s death.

Mara ends up living with her cousin and her cousin’s partner “Auntie” in Toronto.

I was hopeful that things would turn around for Mara here but it was not to be. She is somewhat of an outsider and ridiculed because of her two “moms.” Her first sexual experience at a very tender age is heartbreaking as she believes that giving in to the boy “seemed easier than resisting.” She was grateful for the attention.

Mara struggles through high school as somewhat of a misfit, except with the boys. By the time Mara gets to university she has fulfilled the meaning of her name, bitterness. On the surface, she seems like a girl who knows what she wants. She lets on that she’s okay with anonymous flings but her behaviour escalates. Just when I thought she had learned her lesson she got herself into the most degrading and disrespectful situation which becomes a turning point, a wake up call to her.

Mara does have a few significant relationships on her road to self-respect and peace. I don’t want to ruin the plot by revealing how Mara ends up but I will say with relief that it ends well for her. But only after significant turmoil, several relationships, a car accident and a plane crash. Sound like a soap opera? It could have been, but there’s more depth and honesty to Mara than any soap opera character. She is a conflicted soul. I felt weak after finishing the book, feeling like I had gone through Mara’s life as her best friend, experiencing her pain, her strength, and finally her peace with her place in life.

The parenting in Mara’s life had greatly failed her and as a mom I felt a sense of protection over her. I wanted to go get Mara, and all the other girls like her, bring her home and tell her everything would be okay, that she didn’t have to allow those things to crush her dignity, that she deserved better. The harsh sexual scenes involving Mara were tough to read because I felt helpless and sad for her. I think that Linfield is reflecting in Mara a very common feeling in young women today…there are a lot of hurt and sad girls out there, acting tough, like it doesn’t matter at all when deep down it does.

I don’t think I am reading too much into the book when I say that Linfield is making a comment on the judgments we make of people by their actions and appearance when really our perception can be completely wrong. The novel reminded me that even people who appear to be intelligent and strong can be hurting so much that it pushes them to behave in not so intelligent ways. With Mara, Linfield shows that how a person functions in their daily life doesn’t always indicate the level of emotional health they are experiencing.

Thankfully Mara meets Jack in an unlucky/lucky kind of way when he runs into her with his car on a snowy day in the middle of an Ottawa winter. Jack becomes the presence that pushes Mara down the path of healing and feeling better about herself. She sees in him what she wants for herself: “There’s a vulnerability about him that’s beautiful…Jack’s beauty is different. With Jack, it’s his whole being. I wish I were beautiful in that way.”

Jack isn’t like any of the other guys she has known, or barely known. He seems to sense how Mara normally is with men and he does what he feels is right, not starting a physical relationship at all. He knows that he wants more from her, he loves her, but he needs Mara to know it as well.

I will leave the rest of the plot for you to discover. In the end I was happy to have read the book despite some struggles. I will never forget Mara and her life story. The book reminded me of many things that are important in life and the most important thing I am left with is how important it is to instill love and respect in our daughters and our sons, so they are able to feel these things without a doubt for themselves.

From Geeky Girl Reviews

What a fantastic book.I read this one last night and I couldn't put it down at all that I ended up going to sleep late.Very well written  and thought provoking. I highly recommend this book.

If you want to purchase this you can do so at amazon.comand smashwords .

I give this 5 out of 5

From Big Al's Books and Pals

I read very little literary fiction and even less chick-lit, which casts this book into the far left field of my comfort zone, but I found a lot to like about the story.

The book opens in Mara’s present day. She’s in her early twenties, and sexually promiscuous—on the first page, she wakes up in a filthy bed, in a filthy room lying next to a guy she’s not totally familiar with. The sex, though, is never gratuitous. It, and her other lifestyle excesses, are symptoms of problems buried deep in Mara’s psyche, which left me with an uneasy feeling about her character. I was scared for her. Because although Mara is unhappy with her life and her choices, she keeps following the same path, as though someone else is in charge of her decision making process.

The answers lie in the second thread, where we see Mara growing up in a loveless home and looking up to a father whose literal interpretation of the bible makes him distant and cold. Her mother is weak and disappointed. The author does a stellar job of speaking in a different (more childlike) voice in this thread, which makes Mara’s emotionally barren childhood more poignant. As Mara ages in this thread, she is abandoned by those who should love her, and her current-life struggles and lack of self-belief become more understandable

The writing is crisp, with some lovely imagery. For example, Mara thinks as she walks along the road: “I don’t mind this gusty wind. It seems sure of itself.” How clever to have this confused young woman realize the strength in the wind’s consistency.

Mara’s lifestyle is unpleasant, her choices poor, her self-respect non-existent, yet I always found myself rooting for her. The only character I struggled to accept was Jack, who didn’t ring true to my eye. On odd occasions, the author delved too long into Mara’s inner angst for my taste (although that’s probably a genre issue).

I’m glad I read this story. It sounded some personal notes for me, and isn’t that what good writing is about?

From The Reading Cafe

Whoa…pretty intense beginning.  A used, discarded condom too close to your face after a night of getting too close to a stranger?  Sadly, it wasn’t an unfamiliar sight to Mara.  The Truth about Dandelions by Hayley Linfield was a dark yet enlightening journey into the life of a troubled soul.  I cringed several times, Mara’s impulse control was so volatile, but prying my eyes was impossible.  The path was set, I followed Mara’s lead and I never got lost.

Raised in the town of Nameless (a suburb of Toronto, Canada – MUST find out if this place is real!), Mara is the only daughter of a Presbyterian minister and her mother, the dutiful wife of a minister.  The spiritual element is so prevalent in Mara’s upbringing; it is the backbone of the story.  We’ve all heard the whispers to be wary of the children of religious leaders; the quiet ones are the most rebellious.  Mara not only epitomizes that stereotype, but she delves into her most personal reflections and memories, and Ms. Linfield gives us her heroine’s gritty truth.

“What a weak, human idea it is to try to indoctrinate a child without giving an explanation, without allowing questions.” 

Mara didn’t mean to follow blindly.  Her parents just didn’t think it was necessary to tell “whole” truths.  Problem with those pesky half-truths is facing those convictions.  Learning about infidelity from your once self-contained mother’s curses (and dish-breaking), about the father you idealized/idolized who is preaching about savior and redemption…well…it just doesn’t foster believability.

Unfortunately, because Mara is really quite an extraordinary woman with intriguing thoughts and a contemplative nature, her past and its influence of negativity, manifests itself into destructive behavior.  While Mara is able to discern 19th century English literature (working on her thesis no less), and is adept at philosophizing on monogamy and religion, she travels a downward spiral of promiscuity, alcohol abuse and detachment.  A highly-functioning sociopath, if you will.

“How silly of me to feel clever about something so unimportant.  How bizarre that we can be so smart in certain aspects of our lives and so stupid in other ways.  I instinctively know where North is in a strange city and I can analyze the hell out of novels written two hundred years ago, but I can’t manage to put my own insignificant life into any semblance of perspective.”     

Death is another theme running rampant in this book.  We can all relate on some level, but Mara’s experiences are of epic proportions.  Ms. Linfield delivers a sequence of events that leaves little doubt as to the chaos in Mara’s head.  No wonder she hides, no wonder she dwells, no wonder she’s a wreck.  A wreck I say?  Would you believe Mara is involved in a car wreck?  Oddly enough, this fateful wreck brings forth a “reboot” of sorts.  Jack, the driver of the vehicle that strikes Mara, becomes a catalyst for this new perception.  He’s unlike anyone she’s met before, but her obsessive personality is no easy match for his passivity.  When Jack (or practically any other person) showed Mara a modicum of respect or care, she elevated the act to unreal levels.  Mara said one person treated her like a queen, but to any one of us, he was just a decent guy who enjoyed talking to her.  Truth is each exchange was a first; every interaction was unrivaled because no one had ever shown her genuine affection before.  It was maddening to me to hear Mara’s fearful thoughts:  Why isn’t Jack coming on to me?  Why can’t Jack take me to bed?  Oh, there’s a reason, but I won’t spoil it for you.  Jack’s opinion of Mara really matters and you root for her to keep composure.  Don’t mess this up, Mara!!!

As disorderly as Mara may be with her poor judgment, lingering phobias and overanxious conduct, she is a product of her environment and that environment reeked.  I did not anticipate the life-altering consequence Mara faced (I literally covered my eyes like a child while I read a HUGE reveal because my heart feared the reaction) and that may have peeved me.  Was it a necessary evil?  I would have preferred permanent adjustments prior to major commitments.  Vague-speak enough?  There’s no way I’m ruining this for you!   

This is the hardest part about writing reviews:  How much do I disclose to pique the reader’s interest?  If I haven’t accomplished that by now, TRC may be in search of a new contributor.  JK!  Dandelions are considered weeds; the nuisance of any garden.  Mara loves them.  They remind her of a once-happy home, her mom playing Liszt on the piano, her father’s sermon winding down in his best diminuendo.  Best of all, they’re resilient.  It is not an easy read, lots of squirming and exasperation, but an honest and hopeful one simultaneously.    

“Have you been here a while?” I ask, nodding my head at his beer.

“No actually.  Less than ten minutes I’d say.”  He looks at his mostly empty beer bottle and laughs.  “I guess I’m thirsty.  Or maybe nervous.  I was watching for you,” he says, nodding at the view of George Street.  “Don’t know how I missed you.”

“Guess I slipped past you.”

“Yeah, I don’t want that to happen.”

“Me neither,” I say, meeting his eyes.

Awwww…..well done, Ms. Linfield!  I look forward to much more from you.

Reviewed by Carmen

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