REVIEW: THE GOOD SON, BY JACQUELYN MITCHARD

What do you do when the person you love best becomes unrecognizable to you? For Thea Demetriou, the answer is both simple and agonizing: you keep loving him somehow.

Stefan was just seventeen when he went to prison for the drug-fueled murder of his girlfriend, Belinda. Three years later, he’s released to a world that refuses to let him move on. Belinda’s mother, once Thea’s good friend, galvanizes the community to rally against him to protest in her daughter’s memory. The media paints Stefan as a symbol of white privilege and indifferent justice. Neighbors, employers, even some members of Thea’s own family turn away.

Meanwhile Thea struggles to understand her son. At times, he is still the sweet boy he has always been; at others, he is a young man tormented by guilt and almost broken by his time in prison. But as his efforts to make amends meet escalating resistance and threats, Thea suspects more forces are at play than just community outrage. And if there is so much she never knew about her own son, what other secrets has she yet to uncover—especially about the night Belinda died?

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After Thea’s son is convicted and sent to prison, I was catapulted into the terrifying world she faces in The Good Son. Even after he has served his prison sentence and been released, Thea struggles to understand how the son she raised and loved could have done what he was accused and convicted of. There are so many unanswered questions.

But Stefan tries to move on and starts a community group that focuses on amends and healing.

Meanwhile, an unknown caller stalks Thea, hinting at secrets she has and offering to give her information. But she constantly evades Thea. A thin stalker with a terrifying aura also haunts the family.

Belinda’s mother, who was once Thea’s friend, has organized a group of protestors who are always there, in front of Thea’s home, showing up at events, and making the family’s life a living hell.

Just when Thea has begun to sort out the stalkers and question the messages, something totally unexpected happens that changes everything she believes.

I was suspicious about several characters and kept waiting for the reveal that could bring all the answers. When it happened, it was stunning and turned all their lives upside down. A 5 star read.

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REVIEW: THE BEST KIND OF PEOPLE, BY ZOE WHITTALL

The Woodburys cherish life in the affluent, bucolic suburb of Avalon Hills, Connecticut. George is a beloved science teacher at the local prep school, a hero who once thwarted a gunman, and his wife, Joan, is a hardworking ER nurse. They have brought up their children in this thriving town of wooded yards and sprawling lakes.

Then one night a police car pulls up to the Woodbury home and George is charged with sexual misconduct with students from his daughter’s school. As he sits in prison awaiting trial and claiming innocence, Joan vaults between denial and rage as friends and neighbors turn cold. Their daughter, seventeen-year-old Sadie, is a popular high school senior who becomes a social outcast—and finds refuge in an unexpected place. Her brother, Andrew, a lawyer in New York, returns home to support the family, only to confront unhappy memories from his past. A writer tries to exploit their story, while an unlikely men’s rights activist group attempts to recruit Sadie for their cause.

My Thoughts: From the very beginning of The Best Kind of People, I felt drawn into the lives of the Woodburys, especially Sadie and Joan. Their reactions to the events that unfolded felt real and spoke to how one might experience being blindsided in such a way.

Multiple narrators, including Joan, Sadie, Andrew, and Kevin brought out the way a community and a family are impacted by an arrest of a beloved individual. How should any of them feel? Should the family give unwavering support to a man who might be guilty? Should all who knew him for years be immediately on his side? Would the media presence affect how they reacted?

Visiting George in prison was another shock to reality for those whose previous experiences did not prepare them for this new normal.

How does Kevin’s new novel change how others view him? Can Sadie find a way to interpret the betrayals she sees all around her? Will she find a way to deal with those who believe that her family is somehow tainted by her father?

The activists were the most disturbing aspect for me, as the tendency to blame feminism for the allegations of the girls struck a wrong chord with me. While I did not necessarily believe the girls, since, despite what the proponents of victims’ rights might claim, teenage girls do occasionally lie, I could not align myself with those who slapped such a label on their cause.

In the end, the trial seemed to happen off stage, just as much of George’s experiences seemed separate from what everyone else was going through. As a result, the outcome felt flat and tepid. I was no longer at all sure about what was true or how to feel. 4.5 stars.


***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

SERENDIPITOUS TUESDAYS: “OUT OF ORANGE”

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Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by A Daily Rhythm.

Today’s featured book is told in the voice of the real-life Alex Vause.  From the critically acclaimed, top-rated Netflix show Orange Is the New Black, comes her story in her own words for the first time—a powerful, surprising memoir about crime and punishment, friendship and marriage, and a life caught in the ruinous drug trade and beyond:  Out of Orange, by Cleary Wolters, is another perspective for the fans.

 

 

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Intro:  Prologue:  Karma

Cincinnati, Ohio, 2013

I developed a skill, where if I want to concentrate on something, anything, and my surroundings are distracting or loud, I can block out the noise and activity surrounding me and focus solely on whatever task needs my attention.  It’s a very useful skill at times, but it bugs the shit out of my mother when I’m not listening to her.  In that case, it’s not really a skill; it’s a habit.  It’s not my intention to ignore her.  But if we are watching one of our favorite television shows together at the end of a very long day, I might miss the fact that she has been talking to me for a while.

It was in one of these typical end-of-day scenes where she was going on and on about something trivial, like how many lights our neighbor has on tonight compared to any other night or the number of cars that have driven down our road.  I was tuned in to a comedy when she clapped to get my attention away from the show and onto her dilemma.  Dad’s been gone for years, and I don’t hear dead people, so I can’t really help her resolve their most recent spat.  Besides that, I have a hard time imagining Dad making the long trip all the way back from heaven just to discuss the day of Mom’s hair appointment.

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Teaser:  Starting out on the other side of the planet on a route we had never taken made us nervous.  We had looked on a globe to find Jakarta.  Phillip knew approximately where to look; I had no clue. (p. 75).

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Synopsis:  Fans nationwide have fallen in love with Orange Is the New Black, the critically acclaimed and wildly popular Netflix show based on Piper Kerman’s sensational #1 New York Times bestseller. Now, Catherine Cleary Wolters—the inspiration for Alex Vause, Piper’s ex-girlfriend, friend, and sometimes-romantic partner on the show—tells her true story, offering details and insights that fill in the blanks, set the record straight, and answer common fan questions.

An insightful, frustrating, heartbreaking, and uplifting analysis of crime and punishment in our times, Out of Orange is an intimate look at international drug crime—a seemingly glamorous lifestyle that dazzles unsuspecting young women and eventually leads them to the seedy world of prison. Told by a woman originally thrust into the spotlight without her permission—Wolters learned about Piper’s memoir in the media—Out of Orange chronicles Wolter’s time in the drug trade, her incarceration, her friendships and acquaintances with odd cellmates, her two marriages, and her complicated relationship with Piper. But Wolters is not solely defined by her past; she also reflects on her life and the person she is today.

Filled with colorful characters, fascinating tales, painful sobering lessons, and hard-earned wisdom, Out of Orange is sure to be provocative, entertaining, and ultimately inspiring.

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I love reading “the other side” of a story, and in this new perspective, I am poised to learn more about the true-to-life people who are at the center of the popular show.  What do you think?  Would you keep reading?

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