Wednesday, June 29, 2011
What makes up a family? For Casey it's sharing a house with her fiancé, Michael, and his three children, whom she intends to nurture more than she ever took care of herself. But Casey's plans have come undone. Michael's silences have grown unfathomable and deep. His daughter Angel seethes as only a teenage girl can, while the wide-eyed youngest, Jewel, quietly takes it all in.
Then Michael's son, Dylan, runs off, and the kids' mother, a woman never afraid to say what she thinks, noisily barges into the home. That's when Casey decides that the silences can no longer continue. She must begin speaking the words no one else can say. She'll have to dig up secrets—including her own—uncovering the hurts, and begin the healing that is long overdue. And it all starts with just a few tentative words. . . .-- Wm Morrow
I have been anxiously awaiting the release of THINGS WE DIDN'T SAY by Kristina Riggle for some time now. I have been a pretty big fan of Ms. Riggle's ever since she was a member of The Debutante Ball, and I've enjoyed both of her prior novels REAL LIFE & LIARS (my review) and THE LIFE YOU'VE IMAGINED (my review.) So I guess I had some high expectations for this novel.
I wouldn't go so far as to say that the novel didn't live up to my expectations, but I don't think it resonated with me quite a much as her prior two books did. I still thought the novel was well written and there were definitely signs of the interesting characters that I've come to know and love from Ms. Riggle, but I just didn't feel an affinity to any of the characters (with the exception of the children.) I have said over and over again that it shouldn't matter whether I like the characters or not to appreciate a book, but I have to be honest when I say that it does help.
I do think one of the strengths of Ms. Riggle's writing is her character development, and once again, I thought she did a great job of creating some very complex characters. I think she tackled some very relevant issues in today's society about blended families; and in THINGS WE DIDN'T SAY, she definitely created a very dysfunctional, yet also somewhat entertaining, family. While I felt that some of the relationship dynamics were a little extreme, I have no doubt that some readers will be able to relate to the characters, their reactions and their emotions.
There were a few things that I did really appreciate about THINGS WE DIDN'T SAY. First of all, I thought the story was intriguing and kept my interest. It was a quick read for me and the story was fast-paced. Their was enough tension and drama between the characters to entertain me; and I did find myself laughing at the ex-wife more than a few times (of course, that's before I wanted to wring her neck for causing her family so much pain.) In addition, I enjoyed how Ms. Riggle decided to tell this family's story -- she wrote the various chapters in multiple characters' voices. I think Ms. Riggle certainly has a talent in bringing each of the characters to life and I thought she did a wonderful job of making each voice individual and distinct. I also liked seeing the "crisis" situation through the different characters' eyes.
But what I found the be the best part of this novel were the messages that it contained. I thought Ms. Riggle demonstrated many of the difficulties that blended families face from difficult children, to crazy exes, to young step moms, etc. THINGS WE DIDN'T SAY also tackled some other very real issues including parent/child relationships, love, self acceptance, forgiveness, and addiction. I also liked that most of the characters actually changed throughout the course of this novel and eventually became more aware of themselves as well as their role in the family.
And that brings me to my next point. THINGS WE DIDN'T SAY would make a great book club pick. As I mentioned in the prior paragraph, there are so many discussion worthy topics. In addition, there is a great reading guide which touches on these topics as well as mental health issues, baggage from the past, and unrealistic expectations. You can also discuss the meaning of the novel's title -- I think it's a great one!
If you enjoy well written stories about dysfunctional families, then you should definitely check out THINGS WE DIDN'T SAY.
Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this novel.