Books, Baths, and Bubbles and Harlan Coben’s The Stranger


I am a bather. I love to fill up a tub with hot water and bubbles, grab a glass of wine, light a candle, and sink into the tub with my current book, usually on my Kindle. It’s one of my guilty pleasures, a cheap one that sustains me.

I’ve always loved a good bath and a good book. I remember sumptuous baths in my teen and pre-teen years, in my college days (NOT in the dorms), in my wild and crazy 20’s. A bathtub is sanctuary for me, a place away from the maddening whirlwind of everyday life.

A bathtub is relaxation and rejuvenation. And always with a book.

When we moved to Ohio and were looking for houses, one of my requirements was a master bath with a LARGE  tub. Due to some wild dealings, we ended up scrambling for a house after four months of living in an apartment. When we found our current house, we pretty much fell in love. It was perfect, except for the apartments that backed up to it (we didn’t care at the time. DUH!). That, and the fact that it didn’t have a large tub in the master bath. It didn’t have a tub at all in the master bath.

I caved, because I liked the neighborhood and the house, and because my husband promised me a hot tub in the backyard at some point (hasn’t happened yet, but I’m still hopeful). We do have a decent tub in the girl’s bathroom, and that’s where I bathe. Amidst pre-teen girls’ body wash and shampoo, razors and conditioners, I find my nirvana.

I sink into the as-hot-as-I-can-stand-it water with bubbles, a glass of red wine in hand, a soothing candle lighting the room a bit. I open my Kindle (yes, I walk on the edge, taking electronics near water) and read. If all goes well, the girls realize that mom’s in the tub and that they need to go use the other bathroom. If all goes well, the hubs hears the water running and knows that I need peace and quiet. I read and relax. I sip my wine. I indulge.

A good bath means that I read until the water cools. A great bath means I put more hot water in, making the bath stretch out for awhile. Usually, I let the water out rather than warm the bath back up, and read a little longer as the water drains. Sometimes, because I still have peace and quiet, I sit in the empty tub for awhile and read for longer. Because I don’t want the tranquility to end.

As I emerge from the bathroom, lotioned up and wearing my fluffy robe, I am usually barraged again with real life. Kids with homework questions, husband with life questions. As soon as all that is done, I climb into bed and again, read my book. Because I read.

On nights when I get a bath, sleep comes easily. It is the end-of-the day I need. It sets up the next day for success, having that bath. The perfect bath combines some of my favorites-wine, candles, and books-with sweet smelling bubbles.

It’s heaven on earth.

And now, a thriller I read mainly in the tub: Harlan Coben’s The Stranger.

I’ve always liked Harlan Coben. His Myron Bolitar was one of my favorite mystery heroes. And he writes about New Jersey. I’m not from Jersey, but my husband is, so it claims a soft spot it my heart. He writes about nice, quite, New Jersey, not the Hoboken, Jersey City, or Newark that people often think of when they think of New Jersey.

The Stranger is not Myron Bolitar thriller, but it is set in New Jersey, and it is interesting. The premise is thus: a stranger arrives in Adam Price’s world one night at the local bar, where he is present to ensure his son’s spot on the town’s traveling lacrosse team. His wife, a bit of a control freak, demands it. The stranger corners him and whispers a secret in Adam’s ear about a fake pregnancy, shattering Adam’s world in ways no one can see.

Adam confronts his wife ,Corinne, and she doesn’t deny it. But she asks for a few days before she gets into it all. When he gets a text telling him she’s taking off for a few days, he gives her the requested space, because he feels betrayed and disappointed. But it doesn’t take long for Adam and their sons to realize that something is off. He starts to use his resources and his innate common sense to follow the threads, knowing that his wife wouldn’t abandon her children, knowing that she loved him and their sons more than anything. Knowing that what ever lies she told were only told to hang onto what she holds most precious: her family.

This is a quick read, short chapters, and another great one for any upcoming spring breaks. Engrossing, intriguing, and even a bit enlightening, it tells the story of a woman willing to do whatever to hold on to what she loves, and a man who realizes how much she means to him.

I really liked this family, and I liked Corinne. Or I understood her. She was a great mom and a good friend, a wife who loves her husband and her sons more than anything. She loves her town and teaching, and is probably the best developed character in the book, in someways,even better than the main character, Adam, as the book is all about getting the bottom of her lies and her disappearance. It tells the story of a family, and all it takes to get through the tough times in a marriage.

I give this one 3.75 stars.


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