How well do you remember your childhood? In my memory, I picture many experiences as a movie with a golden tinge to the picture. Is this normal? It feels like a dreamier time, mostly good memories but some of the details are fuzzy. I remember the friends, the fun, sitting on the hot wooden bench at the pool club in the summer eating a dripping ice-cream sandwich, dueling lemonade stands with our neighbors in our cul-de-sac…
But the actual solid details do escape me at times.
I think this is why I picked up Before We Were Strangers by Brenda Novak. She remembers a night as a child when her parents were fighting. Then her mom disappeared. 20 years later, she has to revisit that night. Because does she remember it accurately? Or did the brain of a 5-year-old jumble it somehow. Did the years since then mix things up?
What really happened?
From the Publisher:
Something happened to her mother that night. Something no one wants to talk about. But she’s determined to uncover her family’s dark secrets, even if they bury her.
Five-year-old Sloane McBride couldn’t sleep that night. Her parents were arguing again, their harsh words heating the cool autumn air. And then there was that other sound—the ominous thump before all went quiet.
In the morning, her mother was gone.
The official story was that she left. Her loving, devoted mother! That hadn’t sat any better at the time than it did when Sloane moved out at eighteen, anxious to leave her small Texas hometown in search of anywhere else. But not even a fresh start working as a model in New York could keep the nightmares at bay. Or her fears that the domineering father she grew up with wasn’t just difficult—he was deadly.
Now another traumatic loss forces Sloane to realize she owes it to her mother to find out the truth, even if it means returning to a small town full of secrets and lies, a jilted ex-boyfriend and a father and brother who’d rather see her silenced. But as Sloane starts digging into the past, the question isn’t whether she can uncover what really happened that night…it’s what will remain of her family if she does?
I enjoyed this book. It read like a good Lifetime Movie. Just the whole “successful model returns to small hometown to investigate her mother’s murder” really fits for me in to that genre. Then along the way, Novak creates a colorful cast of characters including the ruggedly handsome former quarterback and his desperate ex-wife and the horrible (I mean, really despicable) mayor who controls the town and everyone in it–who just happens to be Sloan’s dad.
I did find Sloan herself to be a little far-fetched. I can see the whole small-town girls makes good angle and when she comes back she has no plans to stay. But as the book goes on, she starts settling back into the town and I’m not sure if that rang true to me. Although I do know people who said they would NEVER go back to their small town and that’s exactly what they did. Maybe there is some type of suction that draws people back?
But the story was good. The central plot line kept moving and the side-plots that Novak spun were entertaining and provided a good distraction from the main mystery at hand. The mystery is also a good one with twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. This one is not a thriller but is not supposed to be, falling into the Women’s Fiction category.
I recommend this one to fans of Lifetime Movies (really, if they make one I am definitely watching it!), country music fans (because it has that great down home drama feel to it), and anyone who likes a good coming home story. The mysteries from our childhoods do not need to stay buried.
This one isn’t out until December 2018, so I apologize if you are super excited for it. But, pre-order a copy now and it will be a nice early Christmas gift when it arrives on your doorstep!
A special thank-you to Netgalley and Mira for an advance e-galley in exchange for my honest review.
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