Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Review: Things You Won't Say

Summary: In this timely and provocative novel, internationally bestselling author Sarah Pekkanen takes us inside a family in crisis and a marriage on the brink after a tragic shooting.

How far would you go to save your family?

Every morning, as her husband Mike straps on his SIG Sauer and pulls on his heavy Magnum boots, Jamie Anderson tenses up. Then comes the call she has always dreaded: There’s been a shooting at police headquarters. Mike isn’t hurt, but his long-time partner is grievously injured. As weeks pass and her husband’s insomnia and disconnectedness mount, Jamie realizes he is an invisible casualty of the attack. Then the phone rings again. Another shooting—but this time Mike has pulled the trigger.

But the shooting does more than just alter Jamie’s world. It’s about to change everything for two other women. Christie Simmons, Mike’s flamboyant ex, sees the tragedy as an opportunity for a second chance with Mike. And Jamie’s younger sister, Lou, must face her own losses to help the big sister who raised her. As the press descends and public cries of police brutality swell, Jamie tries desperately to hold together her family, no matter what it takes.

In her characteristic exploration of true-to-life relationships, Sarah Pekkanen has written a complex, compelling, and openhearted novel—her best yet. -- Washington Square Press

I am a huge fan of Sarah Pekkanen's novels. Naturally, there are some that I like more than others, but her latest THINGS YOU WON'T SAY will be going down as one of my all-time favorites. This story about a policeman who accidentally shoots and kills an unarmed Hispanic teen couldn't have been more timely... or more touching.

Even before the accidental shooting, THINGS YOU WON'T SAY showed that Jamie and Mike Anderson's marriage was having its fair share of issues. Mike and his partner were involved in a shooting that left Mike's long-time partner and best friend seriously wounded. Mike was suffering both PTSD and guilt as a result of the shooting, and his nerves were on edge. Jamie knew something wasn't right with Mike.

Yet Mike continued to go to work every day until the unthinkable happened. Jamie receives a phone call that's every cop wife's worst nightmare -- Mike shot and killed an unarmed Hispanic teen. This event turns not only Mike and Jamie's worlds upside down, but also affects Mike's ex (and mother of his teenage son) Christie and Jamie's sister Lou. Christie looks at this tragedy as an opportunity to get closer to Mike, while Lou finds that it's her turn to finally be there for her sister.

As tensions rise in city between the Hispanic population and the police, Mike and Jamie's marriage seems to be heading towards disaster as well. Jamie tries to be the wife and mother that she knows her family needs while also protecting herself in this difficult time.

I absolutely loved THINGS YOU WON'T SAY. I read the novel almost two months ago (I know, I know!) and it was especially timely. I'm sure the relevancy of this novel did heighten my appreciation of it, but I have a feeling that I'd have really enjoyed this book regardless. Ms. Pekkanen wrote a poignant story with complex characters, and this novel gave me a great deal to think about.

I found it especially interesting that Ms. Pekkanen chose to tackle the issue of a police shooting and racism in this novel. Needless to say, I thought THINGS YOU WON'T SAY was a little deeper than most of her other books. Having said that, Ms. Pekkanen complicated the issue even more by creating a character in Mike that was also suffering from PTSD. My heart definitely went out to the victim and his family; however, I also felt horrible for Mike... and Jamie!

One interesting aspect of this novel was how the shooting affected Mike and Jamie's relationship. Mike claimed he saw the boy holding a gun, and that's why he had no choice but to shoot. Based on his strange behavior, Jamie actually doubted her husband and blamed the PTSD for the shooting. I tended to agree with Jamie (while actually knowing nothing -- just my gut feeling), and I enjoyed how Jamie's lack of faith in her husband (or at least that's how he saw it) affected their marriage. Her actions, in a way, drove Mike to his ex; and she was more than willing to be there for him with open arms.

Another part of this novel that I really enjoyed was when Jamie decided to visit the victim's mother. She thinks that maybe she can talk to her mother-to-mother. Jamie asks for forgiveness in a very touching scene, and it broke my heart to see how this split second event could affect so many people's lives forever. Sometimes we get caught up in the sensationalism of story and forget that there are real people behind these losses.

If there was one small thing that I didn't love about this novel, it was the Lou and her story. I understand that Jamie needed a support system, but I thought her job as a zookeeper and her relationship with the pregnant elephant wasn't exactly necessary to the overall plot. Still, I liked Lou and I appreciated how much she grew throughout the course of the novel.

THINGS YOU WON'T SAY would make a terrific book club selection. There is truly so much to discuss, and the reading guide with fourteen questions and four ways to enhance your meeting will certainly help. Besides the obvious issues like race, police brutality, and guilt, you can also discuss marriage, communication, loss, mental illness/PTSD, loss, parent/child relationships, and more.

I found THINGS YOU WON'T SAY to be a thought-provoking read about some very relevant issues. Highly recommended.

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


bermudaonion said...

I love her work too - this sounds like it might be her best yet!

Kay said...

I'm planning on reading this one. Thanks for rounding out the things I've already read about it. Seems like a powerful book and I agree that sometimes we forget all the people behind the scenes - families and such.

Beth F said...

Arghhh. I can't believe Ihaven't read this yet. Love her books too.