Monday, October 21, 2013
In July 2010, I reviewed a very unique novel called FINNY by Justin Kramon. I really enjoyed this coming-of-age story about a complex young woman, and I was even more delighted after I got to meet the author. So when he emailed me a few months ago and told me his second novel called THE PRESERVATIONIST was being released in October, I jumped at the chance to read it.
THE PRESERVATIONIST is not really anything like FINNY. It's a psychological thriller that centers around a love triangle between the three main characters. Unlike FINNY which did have a lot of humor and quirkiness, THE PRESERVATIONIST was definitely darker and even a little scary.
Julia Stilwell is a freshman at college who is trying to put a tragedy from her past behind her. She attracts the attention of Sam, a 39 year old man who works at the school's snack bar, as well as Marcus, a quiet fellow student. When Julia becomes enamored by Sam's attention, Marcus becomes jealous and tries to turn Julia against Sam.
Then, a series of rapes take place on campus, and Julia begins to wonder if either Sam or Marcus is responsible. As the story unfolds, both men begin to act suspiciously (to say the least); and Marcus even begins to stalk Sam. Julia isn't quite sure if she should trust Sam or Marcus, and she ultimately makes a choice which might cost her her life.
I liked THE PRESERVATIONIST, but I have to say that I didn't love it like I did FINNY. As far as psychological thrillers go, I thought the story and characters were intriguing; and of course, Mr. Kramon's writing was very good. However, I figured out pretty early on where the story was going to go and who was the "bad guy." I think I would have enjoyed it more had I been able to go back and forth about Sam and Marcus.
One thing that impressed me about the novel was how the story was written. The chapters went back and forth between Julia, Sam, and Marcus's points of view. I especially appreciated getting to know and understand each of the characters' motivations, and it was extremely interesting to see how the story unfolded as the characters unraveled.
Another quality aspect of this book was how the author explored the dynamics between these three characters. There most definitely was a love triangle which wasn't especially unique, but Julia, Sam and Marcus were extremely complex. I liked how the author brought into play Julia, Sam, and Marcus's pasts and how their similarities bonded them together.
And finally, I enjoyed how the book ended. By that I don't mean what happened to all of the characters -- it wasn't necessarily a happy ending for everyone. Rather, I liked that the author had a section called "The World Ahead" that told the reader what happened a few years after the official story ended. I appreciated knowing what happened (and didn't happen), and while much of the story was resolved, there was still something that left me thinking about the book after I finished it! I can't say more for fear of giving it away, but suffice it to say that I was left with a feeling appropriate for a psychological suspense novel!
While I don't usually recommend thrillers for book clubs, I do think THE PRESERVATIONIST would work. There is a reading guide that I found on the author's website that has eight terrific questions. As you can see from these questions, the story and the characters have some depth that are perfect for discussion. Some of the themes you might want to explore include love, forgiveness, death, grief, acceptance, honesty, and loss.
One last thing... check out this trailer for THE PRESERVATIONIST:
Thanks to the author for providing a review copy of this novel.