Posted in books

CRM Review: “Behind Her Eyes” by Sarah Pinborough

There’s something that gets me about an unreliable narrator. Whether their willfully lying, lying to themselves, or just ignorant, they have a power to take a thriller up a notch – to lead readers in the wrong direction (or multiple directions, sometimes).

I think, if we were to tell our stories, we would all be unreliable narrators. And, if I’m telling a story about someone I love, I would be an unreliable narrator. The only person who is reliable to tell a story is that person so far removed from the actual story as to be able to tell the actual truth. But that takes a lot of the fun out of a story – especially a thriller.

Sarah Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes is one of those thrillers. Told through the eyes of Louise and Adele, you’re never quite sure of the whole truth. And that’s the fun part!

Louise is a struggling single working mom when she meets a wonderful man on a rare night out. The sparks fly, they talk, and kiss at the end of their night. Louise is sure she’s found a good one.

On Monday, she’s leaves for work excited to meet the new psychiatrist at the office where she works. But when she meets David, she realizes it’s the man she met, and he’s married.

They decide to keep it professional, put that night behind them, but she feels him watching her, all the time.

And then, out on the street,  Adele. She’s new to town and really seems to need a friend. They start talking and form a sort of friendship — and then she realizes Adele is David’s wife.

Unwilling to tell David she’s befriended his wife, unable to tell Adele she has a thing for her husband, she finds herself caught between the two. Adele is the friend Louise needs, David is the man of her dreams. Through Adele, though, she starts to learn more about him, his seeming need to control their marriage and to dominate poor Adele.

But there’s so much more to it than that, as Louise learns while being drawn deeper and deeper into their marriage. Something is wrong here, and she can’t quite put her finger on it.

“It’s strange how different we all appear to who we really are.”
― Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

 

Until it’s too late. (And the ending is NOT what you think!)

The story is told through Louise’s open but (unknowingly) naive eyes, and also through Adele’s past and present. And everything in Behind Her Eyes is unexpected.

As the end of this book draws near, readers kind of guess what’s going to happen. And then, after that, BOOM! There are twists and then there are TWISTS!. This one is unexpected and crazy.

Behind Her Eyes is unpredictable and very engrossing. Louise’s weakness kind of drove me nuts with her weakness and gullibility, but really that drove the story.

If you’re in need of one of those books that are easy to fall into at any moment (say for the beach, a vacation, or even a rainy day), this fits the bill. But it hard to put down, so be warned!!

 

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Flatiron Books (January 31, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 125011117X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250111173
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Posted in books

CRM Review: Elizabeth Strout’s “Anything is Possible”

In case you didn’t know this, my last month and a half have been hard. Death of a parent is a real foundation shaker. It made it nearly impossible for me to do many of the things I loved. And that included reading.

I know, right? It seemed antithetical to my very nature. But I couldn’t pick up a book and read. My mind wouldn’t stay focused, and reading really reminded me of my mom. She was the person who taught me to read, and showed me the beauty of books and the ability of books to just take you away.

(Note: I was still listening to books, which is a beautiful thing, and has soothed my soul a bit.)

But the drought is over. I made myself pick up my Kindle and went to a digital ARC I had been excited to read from one of my favorite authors: Elizabeth Strout.

I pretty much knew this would be medicine: the perfect balm to soothe my aching heart. Elizabeth Strout was what I needed.

Her latest book, Anything is Possible, is a collection of  connected short stories. If you read My Name is Lucy Barton, this is a look into the people that filled her life growing up in a small Illinois town, into where they are present day.

Even if you haven’t read Lucy Barton, Anything is Possible is still great; these stories are beautiful character studies of people in a small town, people you meet everyday. But be prepared, you will probably want to read My Name is Lucy Barton — the references to her (and the story featuring her) will make you want to know more about Lucy.

Strout’s characters are so incredibly real. No one is perfect, no one is completely evil. She has way of putting all of them out there, writing about the most interesting and most vulnerable of characters in a beautiful way. Their thoughts and insights, hurts and slights and victories, are fully and completely fleshed out, making you feel like you know these people.

And Strout’s writing does that one other thing that all fiction should do: It makes the reader take a look around at others and wonder what makes them tick, and to look at them a little more sympathetically. There is something that triggered that woman to be so closed-hearted and mean, a reason that man is so insensitive and hateful, a root to that couple’s incredible sadness.  Understanding might not change them, but it might make understanding them a little easier, and  maybe help the rest of us change the way we treat each other.

Elizabeth Strout’s storytelling style is straightforward and open: she seems to go where the character takes her naturally. In Anything is Possible Strout does something that I wish more writers had the time or inclination to do — she takes time to explore and explain a few of the minor (or even incidental) characters from a novel. It’s a beautiful thing.

I can’t imagine anything better to soothe my heartache than Elizabeth Strout.  I know I’m not the first adult child to lose a parent to cancer (I’m not even the first in this house), but it was a first for me. Anything is Possible helped me get back into one of the things that has always helped me through hard times — reading.

Posted in books, Death, family, loss

I guess this is what it means to really grow up + “The Keeper of Lost Things” by Ruth Hogan

It’s been a little more than a year. A year of wondering and hoping and waiting.

A year of hell.

A little less than a month ago my mom passed away. And yesterday the weight of that realization really hit me. Like a brick to the mouth.

It was a normal day for me. A little busy, a little running around. A lot of little decisions made every hour to keep our family going.

But suddenly, every decision I made seemed to contain extra weight. Like a plastic pitcher suddenly filled with water (or vodka . . .), every thing I had to do yesterday was heavier than just a few days earlier.

It was yesterday when it hit me. I’ve been mom, but now I’m the only ‘mom’ in my immediate family. I’m the older child, the only girl, the only one with children. There is no one left in my immediate family that really knew me as a child. Not the way my mom did.

There is no one left for me to  call mom. There is no way I can go home to my mom if things get rough (I don’t even come close to envisioning this, but there was always that net there, just in case). There’s no one I can call to complain to, who will just listen or put me in my place for sniveling and whining.

I no longer have that person who knew me best and longest. She changed my diapers, helped me buy my first bra, simultaneously ignored and helped me deal with my first (and subsequent) periods. She called me on my crap and rarely coddled me, but was the first to comfort me when my I experienced true heartbreak or hurt (and then to tell me to suck it up).

She was there for my victories and my defeats. She watched me rock and reel through my 20’s (I’m sure she was holding her breath for most of it), and then watched me emerge okay, to be married to a good man and to become a mother myself to two daughters. She watched me own a home and find a career; all those adult things we all must do.

In other words, she watched me fake adulthood.

Because that’s what I feel like I was doing before yesterday. Faking being an adult. Now it’s all real. There’s no mom to help me.

My mom taught me to be strong. So strong. I was a daughter of middle class privilege,  a child brought up wanting for nothing. Her childhood was the same, pretty much (although she was really spoiled, according to my Aunt’s stories. As the youngest of three girls, she got everything she wanted because she was stubborn and they were tired. I get it–the youngest child gets the most because everyone is SOOO tired of arguing with KIDS). But then things fell apart in her (in our) life, and I learned how strong she really was. Strong enough to get through the worst of EVERYTHING.

At the end of that horrible time (which I may or may not talk about later–it’s a true story of tough-as-nails), she met my stepdad. And, because of that, my mother taught me true love. She showed me love — or rather, THEY showed me what real love looks like. Supportive, unconditional, forgiving, true. It was because of them that I can love my husband the way I do.

But back to my original point. Suddenly the weight of it all hit me. Seriously hit me. My husband asked me to call the cable company, and then he left for work. That request just tipped the scale. Suddenly, at 50 years old, I felt grown up. I realized that all my decisions were mine. There was no mom to call and talk to about cable decisions or raising a teenager or dealing with unreasonable people.

Suddenly I am the one-and-only mom in our family. For 14 years I’ve been part of the ‘sandwich’ generation, caught between the bread of parents and children. I’m no longer part the meat or the cheese in a sandwich. Or maybe I am, for awhile. Maybe my sandwich is now open faced. But sooner than I want to think about (but not too soon, and in no way in the near future, please), I’m going to be that top piece of bread in that generational sandwich–the grandma and mother.

I miss my mom. Crazily. I’ve had time to prepare for the loss, at least mentally. Lung cancer is not easy to beat. But knowing that she’s gone, realizing that on an emotional level? That part is not so easy.

Days like yesterday make me want to call my mom. And knowing I can’t call her makes her passing so much more real.

And I guess that’s when this adult thing hits home. That’s what it means to really grow up.


The Premise

(Paraphrased from the book blurb.)

 

Anthony Peardew  is the self appointed keeper of lost things. After he lost a keepsake from his  fiancée on the same day she died unexpectedly. he has sought consolation in finding and keeping lost objects—the things dropped, misplaced, or accidentally left behind—and writing stories about them. He has kept his mission a secret from all, puting the items neatly in a room in his house. But as his life draws to a close, Anthony worries that done all he can do to reconnect the items and their owners. In his will, he bequeaths his secret mission to his housekeeper and assistant, Laura, leaving her his house and and all its lost treasures, including an irritable ghost.

Laura is one of Anthony’s lost thing, coming to him after a bad divorce. But when she moves into the mansion, her lonely life begins to change. She finds friendship in the neighbor’s daughter, Sunshine, and a distraction in Freddy, the rugged gardener. As Laura starts to emerge from the fog, she and her new friends embark on a mission to reunite the items with their owners.

In a connected story,  we follow Eunice, who found a trinket on the London pavement years ago and hung onto it. Now, as she comes to the end of her life, she has lost something precious—a tragic twist of fate that forces her to break a promise she once made.

As the Keeper of Lost Objects, Laura holds the key to Anthony and Eunice’s redemption. But can she unlock the past and make the connections that will lay their spirits to rest?

I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

My Thoughts

I have a tendency to give objects I find a story, creating a backstory for them that is rich and full of life. Knowing that there is a whole room filled with objects for which stories were created (at least in Hogan’s work) seemed logical to me, and make my heart more than happy.

And Sunshine, the next door neighbor girl? I love her. She is a young adult with Down syndrome, and reminded me quite a bit of my daughter. I do wish she had more of a life beyond the story (as all the other characters seem to have), but she I loved her. She was an integral part of the story, including the work of reuniting the items with their lost owners–this, to me, was perfect.

The Keeper of Lost Things is a character-driven novel, in that the lost things are characters — and the characters are lost things. Each lost thing has a story which must be uncovered, during which the actual characters are telling the stories and uncovering their truths.

The story of Eunice and Bomber, who met the same day Anthony’s fiancee died, is almost worth its own book. I can’t really say it was parallel to Anthony and Laura’s story: I would say it was more diagonal, running side by side but destined to intersect.

The story is a little too cute, a little too sweet at times, and it could have done without the touch of supernatural (which works fine, but not necessary). But honestly, I loved it. I think I needed to know that life works out sometimes, and that all the objects in the world have a story to someone out there. I needed the cute story, and the happy ending.

Book Details

Title: The Keeper of Lost Things

Author: Ruth Hogan

Publisher: William Morrow

Pages: 293 (Kindle Edition)

 

 

 

Posted in books

CRM Review: “All the Missing Girls” by Megan Miranda

 

“There is nothing more dangerous, nothing more powerful, nothing more necessary and essential for survival than the lies we tell ourselves.”

Megan Miranda, All the Missing Girls

The Premise 

(from the book blurb)

Like the spellbinding psychological suspense in The Girl on the Train and Luckiest Girl Alive, Megan Miranda’s novel is a nail-biting, breathtaking story about the disappearances of two young women—a decade apart—told in reverse.

It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched.

The decade-old investigation focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne’s boyfriend Jackson. Since then, only Nic has left Cooley Ridge. Daniel and his wife, Laura, are expecting a baby; Jackson works at the town bar; and Tyler is dating Annaleise Carter, Nic’s younger neighbor and the group’s alibi the night Corinne disappeared. Then, within days of Nic’s return, Annaleise goes missing.

Told backwards—Day 15 to Day 1—from the time Annaleise goes missing, Nic works to unravel the truth about her younger neighbor’s disappearance, revealing shocking truths about her friends, her family, and what really happened to Corinne that night ten years ago.

My Thoughts

All the Missing Girls easily could have been lost in the sea of mystery/thrillers told through the eyes of an unreliable narrator, but Megan Miranda finds a way to make it stand out. She has Nic Farrell tell the story backwards instead of the standard timeline, starting with Nic’s 15th day in Cooley Ridge, North Carolina, working backwards to her first day.

Well, this is a bit of an exaggeration, but just a bit. The story begins with Nic’s return to her hometown, which gives Miranda a way to present all the necessary information. Readers meet Nicolette –  Nic to her friends –  and the other main characters. Also, at that point, Corinne’s disappearance ten years earlier is explained, and the recent disappearance of Annaleise Carter is introduced.

But Miranda then fast forwards to day 15, and begins counting back to day one, throwing in a few walks down memory lane for Nic.

It’s a great device, and it works. All the Missing Girls is exceedingly engrossing, and fast paced. I think it would have been better in one sitting. I found when I put it down for awhile and then picked it back up, I had to go back and reacquaint myself with the characters. I think the story being told backwards threw me off a bit, although I really enjoyed it.

The plot is incredibly twisty and turning, and I closed the book (or my Kindle cover) with a smile and a shake of my head. The ending really stunned me with its final twist.

All the Missing Girls is a great read for a rainy day or a weekend stuck inside. Dark, suspenseful, thrilling. Everything I hoped it would be.

I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

 

Book Details

Title: All the Missing Girls

Author: Megan Miranda

Publisher: Simon & Shuster

Pages: 384 (hardcover)

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1501107979/B0176M3UJW