(Jessica Strawser, 2018)
When a group of neighborhood women gathers, wine in hand, around a fire pit where their backyards meet one Saturday night, most of them are just ecstatic to have discovered that their baby monitors reach that far. It’s a rare kid-free night, and they’re giddy with it. They drink too much, and the conversation turns personal.
By Monday morning, one of them is gone.
Everyone knows something about everyone else in the quirky small Ohio town of Yellow Springs, but no one can make sense of the disappearance. Kristin was a sociable twin mom, college administrator, and doctor’s wife who didn’t seem all that bothered by her impending divorce—and the investigation turns up more questions than answers, with her husband, Paul, at the center. For her closest neighbor, Clara, the incident triggers memories she thought she’d put behind her—and when she’s unable to extract herself from the widening circle of scrutiny, her own suspicions quickly grow. But the neighborhood’s newest addition, Izzy, is determined not to jump to any conclusions—especially since she’s dealing with a crisis of her own.
As the police investigation goes from a media circus to a cold case, the neighbors are forced to reexamine what’s going on behind their own closed doors—and to ask how well anyone really knows anyone else.
What I Liked
- I love a good story about neighborhood drama. This one, I felt, was done so in a way that you truly believed in their connection to one another, and therefore, their concern for the missing. Each character, while admitting that they didn’t know the missing, or each other nearly as well as they thought they did, still gave you enough to believe that they genuinely felt invested in each other, which made this feel very close knit, and large all at the same time.
- “Perfect Mommy” cliche
- I have read quite a few books now that have that cliche of hating on what appears to be the “perfect mother.” However, with Kristin, it wasn’t a catty feeling from the other women in the neighborhood, as you so often see in these types of stories. The commodore from the women in this neighborhood was actually pretty refreshing. They all acknowledged that she was great at being “that mom” to be there for everyone else, but there wasn’t a nasty taste behind those words. I appreciated that the relationships between the women weren’t snotty (with the exception of the relationships between sisters).
- Everything Truly Madly Guilty was not
- I have mentioned my disappointment in TMG before. I was pulled in by the “dinner party gone wrong” idea, and left completely underwhelmed. While this book may not have solely revolved around that campfire night, as the description would lead you to believe, it did a better job using that event and a MUCH better job of revealing what actually happened. I would have liked more focus on that idea, but Strawser did a really great job using it as a stepping stone into the actual story.
- Non-twisty suspense
- Not all books in this lane need to be seriously twisty to the point of “OMG I NEVER SAW THAT COMING!” I actually enjoyed the fact that this one did not have quite as many turns as others do. I found that it was easier to lose myself within that community, and enjoy the story. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t have occasional doubts about who may have been involved. The point was, that while I kind of knew what happened, I really enjoyed the ride regardless.
What I Disliked
- Her relationship with her family really bothered me. I can understand why she distanced herself, but honestly I had a hard time feeling badly for her because she had years to come clean. Something tells me that had Penny known how she felt, things would not have gotten as far as they did.
- Slow burn
- There were some parts of this book that felt like nothing was happening at all, which I know can be a real turn off for some people. I kind of glazed over the details in those sections.
I honestly cannot believe how quickly I got through that book. I mean it wasn’t that long, and suspense/thrillers always tend to be fast reads for me (except Stephen King, jeez those go on forever) but it was a quick couple days to get through it. I was really happy with how it turned out. As I mentioned, the description reminded me a LOT of Truly Madly Guilty. I was skeptical to pick it up for that reason alone (because I was sooo disappointed by it I didn’t want to waste more time on a similar story). However, I was pleasantly surprised that Strawser did a much better job with that kind of event. It may not have been as twisty as some people like their suspense novels, but I still enjoyed the story up to the very end. Some parts were a little slower than others, but all in all I think this is a worthwhile pickup. Actually, it would probably make a really good beach read for some people! So far, my BOTM choices have been heavy hitters in the enjoy-ability department, which is probably why I keep the subscription service (even though I haven’t gotten to half as many as I have). I am glad I was able to squeeze this into my read books for April.
What do you guys think? Is this on your TBR? Have you read Truly Madly Guilty? Let’s chat in the comments :]
(“small” library book haul)
Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein by Jennifer Roy with Ali Fadhil
The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani
We Are Party People by Leslie Margolis
& I am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez