by Molly Jo Realy @RealMojo68
Two months ago my brother took me to Barnes & Noble and said those most magical words. “Pick something.”
I’d passed this book on my way through the stacks, and the cover grabbed me. The back blurb grabbed me. And since my I-want-him-to-be-my-agent friend instructed me to stop reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil [I KNOW, right?! Good thing he didn’t tell me to also give up the movie before NOLA is finished!], this one seemed like a good fit to also use in my proposal and marketing plan at a not-too-much-later date.
I did the dutiful chore of pretending to ignore my brother. I said, “Oh, no. That’s okay. Thanks anyway.”
I squealed in public and gave him a hug and my mother said, “Molly Jo!” and I said, “Like I’m gonna pretend he didn’t just offer to buy me a book.” Please, peeps. We all know that’s tantamount to the winning lottery ticket, am I right? Shyah.
So, here’s where I get into the book. This means the spoiler section. Which means if you don’t want to know about the book, y’all need to turn the channel. That is, stop reading. Stop scrolling. Just leave the page now.
There’s no turning back.
Okay, then. You’re still here. [Thank you for that!]
Let me start with saying, I really wanted to like this book. I really did. The premise seemed like something I would like. The reviews were raves. But . . .
I can’t give it more than three stars. If I can rate it exactly two-and-a-half, I would. Because while the story telling is really good, I was taken out of the story too often.
Lucas, 9 years old, is found dead in his parents’ bath tub on an evening when they were hosting a dinner party with another family. The only, uhm, witness, is Sam, 10. Who says nothing about it. Nothing. For twenty-three years. And then his own nine-year-old son, Matthew, goes missing.
The story is told in first person narrative from Francis’s point of view. Francis is Lucas’s brother. He was just thirteen when it happened, and from then on he was struck with ridiculous anxiety some of which, when described, made me consider MONK on TV. He’s now an adult, has changed his last name to hide from the past, and works at the local newspaper where his boss is his old paramour.
The cast of characters include Francis’s fifteen-year-old daughter Amy who just came to live with him when her mother decided her career in Paris was more important than being a mom. Amy is a superfluous character and to be honest, I found the story reminded me of her existence. It could have easily been told without her. Francis was so wrapped up in finding Matthew that he doesn’t see Amy for days. And she’s only been in town for days. Granted, that plays into his insecure dad role, but it wasn’t necessary. Francis is a mess already.
He has unlikely allies with Sam’s wife Miranda, who first attacks him; Cam, his aforementioned boss; Kira, a local news reporter who is writing Sam’s story; and a psychologist he tracks down after searching for his own father who has also gone missing and is the prime suspect in Matthew’s kidnapping.
Of course, a good mystery needs red herrings and misdirection. But some of the other characters and subplots are unnecessary and distracting. The narrative jumps from adult-Francis telling it as it happened, to the occasional “draft” written by Kira- in third person narrative, telling the events as relayed to her by Sam, to flashbacks. But these tend to jumble and are at times hard to follow. This both adds to and distracts from the story, leaving the reader feeling a little more unbalanced than they should.
The resolution was unfulfilling, a conglomerate of tying up loose ends and at parts, what Flannery O’Connor has stated as the “surprising but inevitable ending.” However, the wrap-up was very predictable and read a bit like someone trying to tie up all the ends, while unfortunately missing some.
The middle section of the book was heavy with F-bombs; not terribly overloaded but much more so than the rest of the book.
There were typos throughout the novel, which greatly detract from the reading experience. A few punctuation errors, word usage, and spelling. There were at least two instances of word usage where I couldn’t tell if the author failed at being clever, or an editor missed an error.
The biggest plot inconsistency happens right away: In the first chapter, the medical examiner stands over the tub, looking down at the “freakishly contorted” body in the water. Two pages later, we learn that prior to any officials coming on scene, Lucas’s and Francis’s mother had pulled Lucas’s body from the tub to try to resuscitate him. Did she put his unresponsive body back into the tub?
The author capitalizes the word “dumpster” throughout the book.
I don’t think this book is terrible, but I also don’t think it’s great. I can’t recommend it, but I won’t stop you from reading it.
Have you read a book that left you apathetic about it?
And Frankly, My Dear . . . That’s all she wrote!