Monday, January 16, 2017
When 30-year-old Dawn reads Miranda’s email, she sees red. People have always told Dawn she’s beautiful, and she just hopes they don’t see beneath—to how she grew up, to what she’s always tried to outrun. She revels in her getaways with her perfect (maybe too perfect) husband, the occasional long weekend in luxurious homes, temporarily inhabiting other people’s privileged lives. Miranda’s email strikes a nerve, with its lying intimation that Dawn is so dirty you need to throw out her sheets.
Beware of your “host”
I wouldn’t have left a review at all, if I didn’t feel it was my civic duty to warn others…
57-year-old Miranda thought she’d seen it all, but she can’t believe her eyes when she reads Dawn’s review. She’s a doctor’s wife but she needs that rental money, desperately. People might think her life is privileged, but they don’t know what’s really going on. They don’t know about her son. She won’t take this threat to her livelihood—to her very life—lying down.
Two very different women with this in common: Each harbors her own secret, her own reason why she can’t just let this go. Neither can yield, not before they’ve dredged up all that’s hidden, even if it has the power to shatter all they’ve built.
This is not over.
This is so not over. -- William Morrow
I would say that I read a fair amount of psychological thrillers, so I am always looking for one with an original concept. And that's what attracted me to the new novel THIS IS NOT OVER by Holly Brown. This book tells the story of a fairly ordinary event that could happen to anyone... that takes a dramatic turn for the worse.
THIS IS NOT OVER begins with two women, Miranda and Dawn, who are fighting over a security deposit of $200. Dawn and her husband spent the weekend in Miranda's luxury beach home only to arrive home to learn that Miranda was keeping $200 of the security deposit because the sheets were permanently stained. Dawn is furious with Miranda's email because it hits a little to close to home that she doesn't belong in "nice" places, so she leaves a negative review on rental website.
Despite being the wife of a doctor, Miranda needs the income from her rental property to support her adult son. She can't afford to have a bad reputation as a renter. Her son is a drug addict who is supposedly cut off from the family, but Miranda has been secretly keeping in contact with him... and providing money to him when he asks for it.
These two very different women obviously are dealing with their own set of personal issues, and these issues make this odd email encounter escalate quickly. Neither woman can let it go (heck -- it's only $200); and as a result, their darkest secrets come to light. Will these women's persistence to destroy each other eventually destroy the lives they've so carefully built?
I enjoyed THIS IS NOT OVER, but I don't know if I'd say I loved it. I definitely appreciated the premise of the novel -- an ordinary misunderstanding that escalated into an all-encompassing nightmare; however, I had difficulties in liking the main characters. I realize that I don't have to like a character to enjoy a novel, but the characters is this book, particularly Miranda and Dawn but even Miranda's husband and son, were almost impossible to like.
On one hand, I think the author did a fairly good job of escalating the issue between the characters and then building the tension for the reader. However, on the other hand, it seemed a bit ridiculous at times. I realize that both Miranda nor Dawn were far from normal. They both had so much baggage that made them vulnerable to an encounter like this one, so I tried not to judge them based on "normal" people's behavior. I even tried to feel their pain as their complicated backstories were revealed. I just had a very hard time relating to them.
As the tension in the novel grew, I had a feeling that things were going to build to a suspenseful conclusion... and they definitely did. I'm not sure I was entirely satisfied with the ending but I did appreciate that the author managed to surprise me. Truth be told, I think I was just happy that the battle between the women came to an end... one way or another!
There were some definitely positives about THIS IS NOT OVER, and I think it's a testament to Ms. Brown's experience as a family and marriage counselor. Both Miranda and Dawn were struggling with some huge issues, and I do think the author used these life experiences to explain their crazy behavior. Her understanding of marriages and family problems definitely came in handy when building these two characters. Furthermore, I thought she did an excellent job of explaining a parent's thoughts and actions when they have a child who is an addict.
THIS IS NOT OVER would make an interesting book club pick because the main characters are so complex. There is a set of ten discussion questions in the paperback version of the book but I wasn't able to find a link on-line to the questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore include paranoia, insecurity, secrets, addiction, parent/child relationships, marriage, lies, anger, validation, guilt, the age of social media, and communication.
Overall, THIS IS NOT OVER is an interesting look at an ordinary event going bad. I recommend this novel to fans of psychological thrillers and those readers interested in books about dysfunctional characters.
Thanks to Get Red PR and the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.
Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.