Saturday, March 10, 2018

Book Review: "Not That I Could Tell" by Jessica Strawser

Boy, do I love a little bit of soapy neighborhood melodrama and mystery...

"It's no great accomplishment to get someone to believe a lie. It's not that hard, really. Look at me: doctor's wife, working mom, good neighbor. You've already summed me up, haven't you? You're already filling in the blanks. But whatever you're writing there, it's not the truth. And that's fine by me. It's easier, knowing you don't know me at all."

One Saturday night, a group of female neighbors gets together around the firepit of one of their houses. They're excited with the prospect of adult company, and by the fact that their baby monitors actually work in the backyard. They all have a little too much wine that night, leaving everyone feeling a little worse for the wear the next day. But all agree it's a price worth paying, and the conversation flows all over the place.

Life proceeds as usual on Monday until they get a real shock: Kristin, the seemingly near-perfect mother of twins, the class mom always willing to pitch in, has disappeared along with her children. Some of her clothes and the children's clothes and favorite toys are missing, as is her mother's heirloom china. But her cell phone was left behind.

Kristin didn't seem at all dismayed that her divorce from her gynecologist husband Paul was nearly final. No one knows what to think about her disappearance, and as the police begin investigating, they uncover secrets that she never shared with her friends, secrets which make them fear the worst. As public suspicion centers around Paul, he tries to focus attention back to his soon-to-be ex-wife, all the while trying to make himself seem more sympathetic.

Kristin's friends and neighbors try to make sense of what has happened, and how they were unaware of what Kristin was going through. For Clara, who lived next door, Kristin's disappearance and the facts swirling around remind her of an incident from her past that she has tried to put behind her, but she finds herself in the middle of the scandal, which causes issues for her husband and her young children. And Izzy, the neighborhood's newest resident, tries to stay above the fray and not pass judgment, because she is dealing with emotional issues of her own.

How well do we know our friends? Should we listen to those around us or should we trust our own instincts? Not That I Could Tell follows the model of books like Big Little Lies and Marybeth Mayhew Whalen's When We Were Worthy, providing a compelling narrative, a healthy dose of melodrama, and a mystery that eats at the fabric of friendships and the neighborhood.

Jessica Strawser does a great job with this book. I devoured it in practically one sitting, and although I had my suspicions of how things would resolve themselves, that didn't dampen my enthusiasm one bit. You've seen this before, but Strawser's storytelling ability keeps you turning the pages. I think this would make a great TV movie, too.

I was looking for something a little lighter, and this definitely fit the bill. This will make a great vacation read!

NetGalley and St. Martin's Press provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

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