Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Review: The Promised World

Summary: Now from the bestselling author of The Cure for Modern Life and Once Upon a Day comes a riveting story of suspense about a literature professor whose carefully constructed life is shattered after the death of her twin brother and the unraveling of the secret world they shared.

On a March afternoon, while Lila Cole is working in her quiet office, her twin brother Billy points an unloaded rifle out of a hotel window, closing down a city block. "Suicide by police" was obviously Billy's intended result, but the aftermath of his death brings shock after shock for Lila when she discovers that her brilliant but troubled twin -- the person she revered and was closer to than anyone in the world -- was not only estranged from his wife, but also charged with endangering the life of his middle child and namesake, eight-year-old William.

As Lila struggles to figure out what was truth and what was fiction in her brother's complicated past, her job, her marriage, and even her sanity will be put at risk. And when the hidden meaning behind Billy's stories comes to light, she will have to act before Billy's children are destroyed by the same heartbreaking reality that shattered her protector and twin more than twenty years ago.

A love song to the redemptive power of books and stories,
The Promised World is a mesmerizing tale of intimacy, betrayal, and lost innocence that will haunt readers long after they have turned the final page. -- Atria Books

I have never read a book by Lisa Tucker, but I know a ton of people just love her books. I decided to start with her latest novel THE PROMISED WORLD. When I read the description, it sounded like a book that was right up my alley -- conflict, betrayal, etc. Plus it included lots of family dynamics. I couldn't wait to dig in!

I have to admit that THE PROMISED WORLD wasn't exactly what I was expecting. I don't think it was because the description on the back wasn't accurate, it's just that the book certainly caught me by surprise. I kind of knew it would be about a family with some problems, and I thought it might even delve into some mental illness issues. However, I had no idea how disturbing this book would be and how much it would affect me. I have had a difficult time not thinking about the abuse issues in this novel and how devastating abuse can be on children (and adults.)

This is a very difficult review to write because I want to discuss specific plot issues, but I can't! If I start talking about some parts of this book, I will give so much of it away. And I don't think that's fair to other readers. Suffice it to say that this book is filled with lots of twists and turns and a few surprises too. It is suspenseful, but it will also thought-provoking. I can't even put my finger on a book to compare it to because it really is a very unique book.

I enjoyed how Ms. Tucker's writing style, and she definitely was able to keep my interest throughout the entire novel. She did a wonderful job of slowly unfolding the story while at the same time giving hints into the characters' minds. I also liked how she built suspense and created a great deal of tension and anxiety for the reader. Her writing was very vivid and real to me -- I could visualize the entire story almost as if I were watching it take place. I had a hard time putting this book down because I needed answers for Lila's and Billy's behavior. I couldn't imagine what they could have faced to have such an impact on their lives. Thank goodness the author gives them to the reader by the end of the book!

The characters in this book were extremely complicated; and yet, I thought Ms. Tucker did a wonderful job of bringing them to life. I can't imagine that it would be easy to develop characters whose lives were so incredibly twisted. And while I didn't exactly love all of the characters, I did feel compassion towards them. As credit to Ms. Tucker, she created very complex characters and made me understand them -- even their irrational and disturbing actions. I really appreciated how she created so much pain and guilt in Billy, and my heart eventually went out to him despite the pain he caused his family.

One character whom I really liked was Lila's husband Patrick. While he didn't experience anything as awful as Lila and Billy did, he still was deeply affected by Billy's suicide and Lila's aftershocks. He was a great man and husband, but he was also very human. He truly loved his wife, and I can't imagine the betrayal he felt when he discovered that her entire past was a lie. I loved the decisions he made in this story and how he stood by his wife despite all of her problems.

Lisa Tucker is an almost hometown author (or should I say home state author.) She resides in Pennsylvania, and much of THE PROMISED WORLD took place in Philadelphia and Harrisburg (where I live.) I really enjoy reading books that take place in areas I'm familiar with; and I definitely intend to read more of Ms. Tucker's works. In fact, I have one of her books sitting on my bookshelves right now.

THE PROMISED WORLD would make for a very interesting book club discussion -- mainly because the characters are so complex and troubled. I've come to realize that my book club loves talking about characters and their actions, and I'm sure we'd have plenty to say about this bunch! I couldn't find a reading guide yet for THE PROMISED WORLD, but there are questions available for Ms. Tucker's other books so I'm sure it's just a matter of time. There are some very deep themes to discuss especially pertaining to family dynamics and redemption. If you enjoy books about highly dysfunctional families, they I think you'll enjoy reading and discussing THE PROMISED WORLD.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to participate in the book blog tour.


Beth F said...

I've been hesitant to read this because of the difficult issues, but maybe I should give it a try. Your thoughts about her writing style and the fact that the book takes place in PA are making me reconsider.

Anonymous said...

HI Julie, thanks so much for the thoughtful review. I like a book that takes place in familiar locales too. It sounds like my book club would have a field day with The Promised World!

Thanks for the care you put into all your reviews. It is so appreciated!

bermudaonion said...

It sounds odd, but I love books like this that make me think and also make me thankful for my life. Great review.

Anonymous said...

I agree...this book would make for a great discussion. There's so much to think and talk about.

S. Krishna said...

This book definitely sounds interesting. Thanks for the review!

Anonymous said...

Well put, Julie. Congrats to Lisa for another wonderful read. I thought the book was riveting, too, and I give it an enthusiastic thumbs up!

The Tome Traveller said...

Great review, Julie! It was a complex story, I enjoyed it too.