September 19, 2017 | Graydon House
Literary thriller | Psychological thriller
Paul Strom has the perfect life. Wonderful career, perfect wife, two beautiful, healthy boys, a big house, the perfect suburb. And he’s perfect: successful, handsome, powerful.
Or so it seems.
He’s planned the perfect weekend away, just him and his wife spending the weekend opening their lake house. He has it all planned, after all, she deserves it.
But, even before they pull out of the driveway, things are going wrong. Just little things. But, as they drive, the perfect facade starts to slip, and doubts creep in. How much do they really know about each other? How perfect is their marriage?
Love puts us in the most precarious of situations, doesn’t it?!
At its best, love should leave us vulnerable and unguarded, because we’re opening up our hearts and souls, trusting someone with our love.
It goes the other way as well. With love, hopefully the other person is just as emotionally exposed. You just never know, though, because it’s all a game of trust.
This why stories of abusive relationships hit so hard. Whether it’s emotional, verbal, or physical – the abuse happens because someone let down their guard, trusting another person with all those sensitive, intimate thoughts and feelings. And the abuser takes that opening and attack.
These deep, dark thoughts formed while I was reading Kaira Rouda’s suspenseful Best Day Ever.
The first surprise in the book was the locale. The Stroms live in the mythical Columbus suburb of Grandville, which could be any number of towns surrounding the Ohio capitol. Personally, because of the name, I pictured Granville, the home of Denison University, but I don’t think that was necessarily the Stroms’ hometown. Rouda was intentionally vague on this (only saying it was a desirable neighborhood).
And they’re driving to Lakeside, a real town on Lake Erie. I have not been there, but I have many friends who have vacationed there, and the town is exactly as they describe.
Because of the familiarity and the beauty of Lakeside, the book hit an even creepier note.
From its very first note, Best Day Ever is creepy. There is something ‘off’ with Paul Strom and his relationship with Mia, his wife.
In minute detail, Rouda uses Paul to tell readers all about Paul and Mia’s marriage. We’re given history and detail of their relationship as well as their relationships with others in their life. And, as Paul’s mind wanders more and more, readers get know the real Paul.
Paul is that uber-creepy dude you hoped to God you never dated (let alone married). But I don’t want to give too much away. Seriously, though, if you don’t figure out Paul Strom is twisted in the first five pages, you need to go live in a cave and NEVER DATE AGAIN. Your radar is way off!
Best Day Ever is a serious page turner. Although Rouda uses Paul to recount everything with infinitesimal precision, readers are still drawn in. The blow-by-blow analysis is part of Paul’s very disturbing personality.
Paul is one of the best, most obvious unreliable narrators I’ve read in awhile. Rouda uses him well. From early on, we know he’s unreliable, and it’s okay. About halfway through, readers understand what’s going on, as the slow burn of his crazy starts to show. But, because Rouda does such a great job with Paul, I for one could not stop turning the pages.
My biggest problem was with Mia. She fell for him when she was young and impressionable, but she was also smart and from a family that seems like they taught her right from wrong. Or maybe that was the problem? She was always overprotected, making this seemingly urbane older man look like the next logical step in her life. I don’t know — as the mother of daughters, I hope they’re smart enough not to fall for that.
I had one other problem with Mia, which I think was done by design, but it bothered me. It’s at the end, and, when you finish this book, please ask me about it! I can’t discuss it too much, because it’ll give it away.
If your looking for a page-turner, Best Day Ever fits the bill. Perfect for a weekend away or a day stuck inside. You may look sideways at your partner for a few minutes, but you’ll get over it. I hope.
***Thank you to Graydon House for the digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.