“Life is messy. People love how they can.”“It occurred to him that most of the disasters people prepare for had already happened.”
I’ll admit that after reading the first chapter of this novel I was contemplating pulling out my hair. That chapter consisted mostly of a troubled, withdrawn, and deeply traumatized young man who views the world around him in an esoteric way. He is trying to punish himself for an incident of which we, as the reader knows nothing. He refers to himself and his parents as letters. He is A, his mother is X, his father is Y, etc. I found the beginning of this book so bizarre that I almost packed it in. What a mistake that would have been!
Once the mother, son, and aging dog began their road trip to rural Vermont, my interest was piqued and from then on I was fully engaged in the novel.
The grandmother, Marika was a memorable character. Her story was told via brief flashbacks to her childhood in Amsterdam during the German occupation in WWII.
The writing was skilled and eloquent. The setting was well-conceived and very realistic. The narrative spoke to familial dysfunction, buried traumas, shame, and family secrets. Though the blurb states that this book was infused with suspense, I did not find it so. It was a thoughtful, observant, and multi-layered work of literary fiction. Recommended.
This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Marysue Rucci Books/Simon and Schuster via Edelweiss.
ISBN: 9781476794266 – ASIN: B0B3Y91WDT – 272 pages
This title was published January 10, 2023 by Simon & Schuster
Suzanne Berne is the author of The Dogs of Littlefield; The Ghost at the Table; A Perfect Arrangement; A Crime in the Neighborhood, winner of Great Britain’s Orange Prize; and Missing Lucile: Memories of the Grandmother I Never Knew, part biography and part memoir. She has also written short fiction and essays that appear in Vogue, The New York Times Magazine, The Guardian, and more. Berne currently teaches creative writing at Boston College and The Ranier Writing Workshop. She lives just outside of Boston with her husband and two daughters.
Connect with Suzanne Berne via her website.
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Great review, Lynne. It’s always good to know that the beginning might turn us off and be a bit slow, but not to give up. It sounds like an interesting story.
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