Decision and Destiny
Decision and Destiny is the second novel in a three part series about the Duvoisin family of Charmantes Island. In this breathy period piece, we pick up the tale of the troubled Duvoisin family and their faithful governess, Chairmaine, after the death of matriarch Colette.
The patriarch of the family, Frederic, is a recluse who seldom interacts with his three youngest children, Pierre, Yvette, and Jeanette, and spends nearly all of his time in a private study. His new wife, Agatha, is an ogre of a woman who seems to hate the children and is the sister of his first wife, Elizabeth. Then there are Frederic’s two older children, sons bore before the lady Colette was even a factor in the drama. Paul is the prodigal yet illegitimate son who heads the family farming and shipping business while John is the estranged heir who shows up unexpectedly to re-ignite the hidden mystery of the family in Decision and Destiny. At the core of this tale we find the lovely Chairmaine with her complete dedication to the children and her blossoming attraction to both elder sons of Frederic.
Yes, the Duvoisin family is this complicated, and we learn even more so as the intricate tale unfolds. Familial complexities are central to the storyline as exampled in the seething fury that exists in the dynamic between father and son, Frederic and John, as well as the fierce competition between brothers John and Paul. There is a definite triangle of frustration in the interactions between the three men as John attempts to find his place within the family without really having to hold a role, and Frederic largely withholds himself from everyone. John guards his independence from his father’s fortune with passion while Paul, ever the workhorse for the family business, remains second in line despite his dedication.
For his part, Frederic’s anger with John is largely rooted in the death of John’s mother, Elizabeth, on the birth-bed some twenty-nine years prior. While knowing that his seething blame towards John is unfair, Frederic cannot help himself from continuously directing responsibility to the poor boy. It is made clear throughout this novel that Frederic withheld much affection from John as a result of his own heartache at the death of his first beloved wife. As the story unfolds, we learn that there is an even stickier layer to the current furies between father and son.
This novel is the collaborative effort of sisters Debra and Valerie Gantt—DeVa Gantt their writer’s pseudonym. These two women planted the seed of the Duvoisin family nearly three decades ago when they began to write this story in the late ‘70s. However, as it is wont to do, life intercepted their time and the novel was put down for twenty years. In 2002, the sisters decided to pick the story back up and the trilogy’s first novel, A Silent Ocean Away, was finally finished.
Reading the first installment could undoubtedly invest a reader in the family, but Decision and Destiny is able to stand on its own as a complete tale of love, despair, and unfolding mystery. While no groundbreaking literary feat, this novel is an entertaining read that is a good investment of ones’ time for the hammock on a hot summer day or the sofa on a cozy winter’s night.