"Pretty Guilty Women" by Gina Lamanna
I have, on more than one occasion, heard people comment that women are amazing at holding grudges.
The thing is, I'm not sure I agree.
Based on my experience as an actual living, breathing woman, I don’t feel that we, as a collective gender, really drag strife through the ages all that often.
The women closest to me tend to just… let things go.
For example, my current — long distance — best friend and one time college roommate hasn't remained forever salty about the time I created a montage of her repeatedly — and awkwardly — stage kissing a boy who was not her then boyfriend, set it against the song Kiss Me by Six Pence None The Richer, and played it for our junior year honors English class.
She got over it.
Pretty much immediately.
To engage with this novel, however, I had to put aside my long-held belief that the female population is not rife with stubborn, grudge holding bitches because several of the women prominently featured in this novel are just that.
Though many of the women who make up the ensemble cast of this thriller haven’t spoken to each other since they left college over a decade prior, they find themselves coming back together as one member of their group prepares to get married.
Unfortunately for them, reuniting for this wedding won’t just mean putting up with each other for a couple of hours while shooting evil looks over some watered-down signature cocktails.
Quite the contrary, the bride in question isn’t having a simple ceremony followed by a low-key reception. Instead, she and her wealthy husband-to-be have planned a whole weekend full of festivities, all designed to celebrate their obviously very deep and very real love.
All three former-friends-turned-wedding-guests arrive at the venue — a luxurious (and expensive) spa — with their own baggage.
Ginger, now a mother of three, brings with her not only her rambunctious brood and generally useless husband, but also the stress she has accumulated trying to keep her busy life from bursting at the seams.
Kate, now a wealthy professional living a seemingly enviable existing in New York City, is distracted by the death rattle of her relationship and her lingering belief that she will never become a mother.
And Emily, the most mysterious of the group, returns to the fold of friends a shell of her former self. She’s obviously haunted by something, but thanks to Ginger’s still-ever-present anger at Emily over a really pretty minor violation of girl code, neither Ginger nor Kate seem too concerned.
Shortly after they arrive, they pick up an unlikely fourth member of their group, Lulu. Though she’s certainly chronologically older than the trio of former best friends, Lulu remains youthful and exuberant and — unlike the other ladies — generally lives a carefree lifestyle. But this weekend is proving to be uncharacteristically care-rich for Lulu, who is plagued with worry that her husband — who is but the most recent in a string of wealthy men to whom Lulu has been attached — is tiring of their marriage and getting ready to pull the plug.
Despite amazing — and really fucking expensive — planning, this weekend won’t end as anticipated.
Instead, an unexpected death will completely disrupt the planned nuptials.
And, complicating matters, all four women will take responsibility for the crime.
With a plot that sounds impossibly engaging, I was enthusiastic to begin this book.
But did it meet my expectations?
Well… not quite.
This novel was a fast and easy read, which was a clear strength.
Consisting of transcripts of police interviews interspersed between the short chapters, it didn’t require too much effort to move relatively swiftly through it.
And I did have a desire to move swiftly through it, as the layered mysteries — namely, who was murdered, who murdered him, and why — were compelling.
Unfortunately, however, while this was a fast and easy read it… wasn’t much else.
I didn’t walk away from this novel feeling… well… much of anything really.
This general apathy was due, at least in part, to the fact that I didn’t feel overly connected to any of the characters.
None of them seemed particularly authentic, which made it really hard for me to care about them.
I also struggled to attach myself to any of the characters because of my aforementioned long-held belief that women have been typecast as grudge holders when, in fact the majority of us aren’t.
For most of the novel, I found myself frustrated by this group of friends who let one fucking-probably-not-even-good kiss keep them apart for over a decade.
Additionally frustrating, this novel seemed to be trying to make a bigger statement about an important topic. But it didn’t make that statement all that effectively.
As the book progresses, we find that Emily seems so damaged because she spent a period of time in an abusive marriage. But the abuse isn’t the only negative element of her past that lingers. As it would turn out, after one particularly horrific beating, when Emily was unconscious, her then infant daughter died of SIDS.
Meanwhile, a mysterious young mother is also at the resort. She’s on the run from her husband who also happens to be abusive.
After these discoveries, this theme of abuse becomes prominent.
But it’s neither handled with much grace nor explored in a way that was particularly groundbreaking or informative.
It just felt like the concept of abuse was being used as a plot tool.
Which… I didn’t like.
Almost from the very beginning, this novel felt very much like Liane Moriarty’s smash hit Big Little Lies.
The difference: Where that novel had been fresh and new and unexpected and rich, this novel simply wasn’t any of those things.
It earns a...meh...3 out of 5 cocktails.
It wasn't that it was bad, it just wasn't all that good.
I feel like I’ve been reading a string of just… meh… thrillers. I need to get out of my slump. What would you recommend I read next? Give me some suggestions in the comments, below.
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