Thursday, March 29, 2012

Review: Save Me

Summary: New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline’s Save Me will touch the heart of every woman, as its heroine, the unforgettable Rose McKenna, makes a split-second decision that alters the course of her life—and makes you wonder what you would do in her shoes.

Nobody could have foreseen what would happen the day that Rose McKenna volunteers as a lunch mom in the cafeteria of her daughter’s elementary school.  Rose does it to keep a discreet eye on her third-grader, Melly, a sweet, if shy, child who was born with a facial birthmark that has become her own personal bull’s-eye.  Melly has been targeted by the mean girl at their new school and gets bullied every day, placing Rose in a no-win position familiar to parents everywhere.  Do we step in to protect our children when they need us, or does that make things worse?

When the bully starts to tease Melly yet again. Rose is about to leap into action—but right then, the unthinkable happens.  Rose finds herself in a nightmare, faced with an emergency decision that no mother should ever have to make.  What she decides in that split second derails Rose’s life and jeopardizes everyone she holds dear, until she takes matters into her own hands and lays her life on the line to save her child, her family, her marriage—and herself.

Lisa Scottoline has thrilled millions with her inspiring female characters and her exploration of emotional justice, writing about real issues that resonate with real women.  In Save Me, she returns with her most stirring and thought-provoking novel yet. -- St. Martin's Griffin

I don't know that I'd say I'm a huge fan of Lisa Scottoline's, but I have read and liked some of her books in the past -- and by that I mean her mysteries as well as her humorous essays. I am always up for a good story, and I figured Ms. Scottoline's latest SAVE ME sounded exactly like a book that I'd enjoy. The book's description made it sound like a story about a mother and the lengths she'd go to save her daughter. And it also sounded like it addressed some interesting ethical and moral dilemmas that moms can face.

And that's exactly how SAVE ME began -- with Rose facing some difficult decisions as a mother. Her daughter Melly is being bullied by some of the girls at her elementary school because she has a large birthmark on her face. Rose has to decide whether she should approach the girl and if so, what she should say. What mother hasn't wondered whether to get involved in her child's problems? However, this situation pales in comparison when an explosion occurs in the cafeteria. Rose just happens to be at school that day when the disaster strikes and she is faced with an even more terrifying decision. Does she save the girls right in front of her or sacrifice them so she can try to save her daughter?

As a mother, I could really relate to Rose at the beginning of this story. Of course, my heart broke for the pain that Melly was experiencing as a result of the bully, but I also really felt bad for Rose because I know I would have had many of the same thoughts that she did. And then when Rose was faced with the decision of whom to help after the explosion, I felt an affinity with her because I would have experienced similar feelings of guilt. However, my ability to relate to Rose's story quickly began to change as I discovered that Rose had some deeper, underlying issues from her past.

And once these secrets started being revealed, I found that I didn't enjoy this novel quite as much. Rose began shutting out her husband (who seemed like a pretty nice guy) and acting very strange; and the story took a dramatic turn. SAVE ME became more of a mystery (and a pretty complex one at that) with Rose running around trying to solve it at the expense of her marriage, her family and even her own safety. I'm probably not expressing this clearly, but it almost seemed as if there were two very different and distinct "parts" of this story.

Having said that I did appreciate the mystery and how Rose pieced everything together. (My issue wasn't with the mystery itself. Rather, it just didn't seem to fit well with the first part of the book.) I liked that Rose exhibited strength and intelligence (as is the case with all of Lisa Scottoline's female characters) in solving the mystery, and I felt as if she demonstrated just how much moms can accomplish when they set their minds to it. I will admit that the mystery had many layers and I had no idea where the story was going to go. Needless to say, it wasn't one of those novels where I was able to make sense of any of the clues.

I did have one more slight issue with SAVE ME. While I do root for happy endings (most of the time), I thought that everything in SAVE ME was wrapped up a little too neatly. Of course, I was glad that the bullying of Melly pretty much stopped and that she gained some self-confidence; however, almost every aspect of Rose's life seemed to work out too. I can't go into too many details because I think I'd spoil the story for future readers, but for as far-fetched as parts of this story seemed, the last chapter was just a little too perfect.

While I did have a few problems with SAVE ME, that doesn't stop me from recommending it for book clubs. In fact, I think it might be interesting to hear some additional viewpoints about some of these topics because I might be alone with my thoughts. There is a reading guide available there is a great deal to discuss including parent/child relationships, guilt, marriage, forgiveness, bullying, secrets, self-esteem, "helicopter parenting," and redemption.

And speaking of book clubs, The SheKnows Book Club will be "meeting" this evening at 5 to 6 p.m. PST/8 to 9 p.m. EST to discuss SAVE ME. You can participate live at Ms. Scottoline's Facebook page.

Overall, I enjoyed SAVE ME and for the first half or so, and I thought this story had the makings to be an excellent one. While it wasn't my favorite Scottoline book, I do think fans of her work will appreciate her latest.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.


rhapsodyinbooks said...

I actually just read a book on bullying that doesn't end very happy so I think I might welcome one that comes out alright! :--)

bermudaonion said...

I pretty much felt the same way. The book started out really good, but changed tracks halfway through and kind of left me scratching my head.

Anonymous said...

I went back and read my thoughts about SAVE ME, which I read last April. I think I liked it a little better than you did, but I recall that there seemed to be two separate sections to the book. I'm looking forward to her new one that comes out next month. Have not read any of her non-fiction.

Serena said...

My mom generally enjoys Scottoline's books. While you didn't enjoy this one as much as you'd have liked to, I think my mom would. Thanks for the honest review.

Laura at Library of Clean Reads said...

I think I'll pass on this one. The last Scottoline book I read also started out okay but then just didn't seem plausible and the ending was just too perfect.