"Silent Lies" by Kathryn Croft
It took me several days after finishing this book to write the review.
Now, I should say that that’s not entirely uncommon.
I often like to allow the plot to rattle around in my head a bit before deciding how I ultimately feel about a book.
After all, some books, like fine wine, get better with time. (Or so I hear…about wine. I wouldn’t know from experience as my wine choice usually alternates between Gato Negro and “boxed”)
In this case, however, the passage of time was less choice than necessity.
Before I could, in good conscience, write this review I felt that I absolutely had to go to
- Put on pants
- Go to a book store
- Thumb through a physical copy of this book
To confirm that the ending in my digital advanced release copy was, in fact, the ending.
That’s how fucking open-ended this ending was.
The inconclusively of the ending was really rather jarring because, up until that point, I was incredibly invested in the characters and engrossed in the plot.
Unfortunately, the ending kind of ruined it for me, making me question whether I liked this book as much as I thought I had. (Which, really, isn’t what you’re looking for in an ending. An ending which throwing into question someone’s esteem for your book = not so success)
This was one of those rare books that catches your attention from page 1.
The author accomplished this through the use of a prologue. (which is impressive, because prologues are so often a mistake)
In this book opener, protagonist, Mia, is attending her husband’s funeral. Unfortunately for Mia, her time for mourning is cut short as she is verbally attacked…while leaving the funeral… by people displeased by some horrible thing her husband apparently did before his untimely death. (Which is obviously tacky AF, no matter how you slice it)
This surprise accosting immediately captured my attention and induced a barrage of questions.
What had her husband been accused of?
Had he really done it?
Did what he did in any way contribute to his death?
I felt instantly compelled to keep reading and unearth the answers to these questions, which I, of course, hoped would be contained within.
One of the likely reasons why this premise was so immediately intriguing to me was a result of my recent reading of The Best Kind of People. Since finishing that book, I’d been casually pondering the impact of individuals’ transgressions on their family members. (And by “casually” I really do mean casually. It’s not occupying my every thought… just lurking in the background)
At the open of this book, I felt optimistic that the novel might further explore this topic.
*Spoiler Alert* It pretty much didn’t.
Anyways, following the prologue, we jump forward five years. Mia is now living with her daughter who has transformed from the toddler who accompanied her mother to her father’s funeral to a rambunctious seven-year-old. Mia is dating a man who is so nice and understanding that it’s a bit suspicious. She is also working in private practice as a therapist.
All seems well, until a new client who supposedly came in to discuss her abusive relationship instead drops a bomb on Mia, telling her that her husband actually didn’t kill himself.
Before Mia can dig for more information, this client denies having said what Mia knows she heard her say (which, of course, makes us wonder if Mia is nuts) and abruptly leaves (which could be a sign of the client’s sanity as, if my therapist said I said something I knew I didn’t say, I would bolt, too).
But Mia’s story in the present is only half of the novel.
In alternating chapters we jump back in time approximately six years.
The protagonist in these chapters is Josie, a college student who was taking a class taught by Zach, Mia’s at-the-time-alive-but-soon-to-be-dead husband. As readers, we are immediately made to believe that Josie is the one Zach did something with – or to – before his death.
And so, as we move through this novel, we are actually unraveling two mysteries.
Did Zach kill himself?
What happened to Josie?
While this technique is not uncommon, I do tend to be dubious of it.
Often, when authors have dual plots what we end up with is one plot that's incredibly compelling and another that we must muddle through trying to get back to the compelling one.
That didn't happen here.
Both stories carried their own weight, and both women were rich, well established and, for the most part, believable.
Another strength of this book was the overall prose.
Unlike many thrillers, in which the narrative feels rushed and the prose weak and utilitarian, this author’s style was truly enjoyable to read. She painted her scenes and developed her characters in such a way that I felt immersed in the settings and engaged with the characters.
But this book was not without its faults.
First – as previously mentioned – the ending.
I really have the worst luck with endings, lately.
Admittedly, ending a book is difficult.
If you tie everything up in a nice neat bow, everyone’s going to say it’s bullshit because, in real life, there are no nice neat bows.
Conversely, if you leave everything askew, people are going to be pissed off because they want to know that things work out for the characters they have spent 300+ pages getting to know.
Knowing how impossible endings are, I do try to give a bit of leeway.
But no amount of leeway in the world would have saved this ending.
It’s like… the author just stopped writing.
Another issues – the title. It’s so innocuous.
What does it even mean?
A lie you never speak?
It really had nothing do with the plot, and it certainly wasn’t memorable. I can already picture myself grappling to remember the title of this novel in the future as I describe the plot to an equally bookish friend.
But, at the end of the day, if a book’s good enough you can call it “The Novel” and it will still hold up.
And, like endings, titles, too, are hard.
For some reason, deciding on the 3-5 words that will rest on the cover often seems even more difficult than writing the 75,000 words that will be contained within the book.
Weighing the strengths and weaknesses, this one comes out a solid 3 out of 5 cocktails. It was unarguably an enjoyable read, but, unfortunately, it didn’t maintain the momentum the entire way through and will, ultimately, end up somewhat forgettable.
I definitely judge books by their cover and sometimes judge books by the titles. One of my personal favorites is Idiot Girl’s Action Adventure Club by Laurie Notaro. What’s your favorite book title, and why? Tell me about it in the comments, below.