This week we’re looking at a book whose greatest strength is just how eerily plausible its story really is. This week we’re looking at What’s Done In Darkness by Laura McHugh.
As always, the Goodreads review:
All Too Real. This is one of those books that apparently I can speak to in a way no other reviewer on Goodreads has so far – from the conservative evangelical American Christian side. Growing up on the exurbs of Atlanta, I knew lands not dissimilar from what McHugh describes in this text in the Ozarks. Very rural lands where even by car the nearest single stop sign town can be an hour away. Farmlands with houses tucked into the trees or far out in the fields. And while I never exactly imagined these kinds of events taking place in them, I’m also familiar enough with the very strains of extremely conservative evangelical Christian culture that McHugh plays off of here. And yes, a lot of the attitudes McHugh describes are all too real – and fairly common, within those circles. Even the ultimate actions here are close enough to things I’ve personally seen as to be plausible, including the actual endgame and reasoning – which would be a spoiler to even discuss glancingly. An excellent creepy thrill ride, this is one of those books that could damn near be a news article. Which would make it a perfect candidate for a screen near you. 😉 Very much recommended.
This week we’re looking at a compelling mystery that keeps things refreshingly realistic – if completely twisted. This week we’re looking at Far Gone by Danielle Girard.
Compelling Mystery. This is one of those mysteries that has so much going on that it could feel disjointed in a lesser storyteller’s hands, but Girard manages to make it work quite well. We get the story primarily through three perspectives – Hannah, who witnesses a murder in her opening scene, Lily, a nurse who is a former kidnapping victim who is now working to rebuild her life, and Kylie, the detective who helped Lily in the first book and who here is investigating the murder. Girard manages to keep the pace of the reveals driving through the narrative, all while maintaining plausibly realistic scenarios. Indeed, even the ending is surprisingly refreshing in its realism on all fronts – despite what some activists would have liked. Truly a great story told very well. Very much recommended.
This week we look at an amazing tale of loss and recovery by yet another new to me Lake Union author. This week, we look at Only Ever Her by Marybeth Whalen.
The book does an excellent job of showcasing rural small town life in the South. A bit interestingly, it is actually based in the same general region as last week’s Featured New Release of the Week, The Last At-Bat of Shoeless Joe by Granville Wyche Burgess, and the dichotomies here are interesting. While last week’s book showcases the South in the final years of Jim Crow, this tale features a more current take on the same area – the South Carolina Upstate near Greenville. The town and tale are fictional, but in this reader’s experience growing up in and around such areas, accurate to the types of things you’ll see there.
And the singular biggest thing featured here is the multilayered and multi-generational secrets, responsibilities, and aspirations. Annie is just looking to leave town and set her own course, after spending a lifetime being known for a tragedy that happened when she was just three years old and having grown up bearing the responsibility of helping her hometown cope with its darkest night. Faye is Annie’s aunt who came in to save Annie – yet harbors secrets of her own. Clary is Faye’s daughter and Annie’s aunt, but just one year older than Annie and thus the two have grown up like sisters – to their enjoyment and chagrin. Clary has secrets that Annie stumbled into and wants Clary to reveal. Kenny is the outsider weirdo that Annie defended in high school, and the two share secrets from both his girlfriend – and the fiancee she is about to marry. Laurel is the high school queen bee who has come back to her hometown in disgrace after giving a lofty graduation speech about her goals of exploring the world.
Narratively, the story is told from each of the perspectives of the characters described above, sometimes shifting to another character in the same scene with a chapter break, but with such grace that one could easily imagine a solid cinematographer having a field day with the visual transition. But the secrets don’t end with just these characters. The Sheriff harbors secrets. The fiancee and best friend harbor secrets. The former elite socialite grandmother harbors secrets. The pastor harbors secrets. Indeed, it seems that the only character in the book that doesn’t harbor secrets is the girlfriend, and she doesn’t even get named until near the end of the tale!
Overall an excellent work and I’m looking forward to more from this author. Very much recommended.
And as always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
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