Grace and Riley met in middle school, in their home town of Garland, Tennessee, and forever after were connected. Other friends, like Alls Hughes or Greg Kimbrough would make up their small group, but the bond between Grace and Riley was strong, and extended to the bond between Grace and his parents. The Grahams treated Grace as if she were their own daughter.

Which worked out great for Grace, who felt like an afterthought to her own parents.

Our story, Unbecoming: A Novel, begins in Paris, with Grace posing as a girl named Julie, who lies about her name, her past, and where she is from. Grace/Julie is afraid that her past will catch up to her. Because three years before, Riley, Alls, and Greg were arrested for burglarizing the Josephus Wynne Historic Estate in Garland. And the burglary was Grace’s idea.

The tale is told in the mostly third-person narrative of Grace, so we primarily view events from her perspective. We learn about her childhood, her friends, and how she and Riley came to be. How they even began a secret marriage, even though she had strong feelings for Riley’s best friend Alls. And how she started college in New York, and what happened to derail that adventure.

The story behind the art heist is an interesting one, and the convoluted plan that ended up with Grace hiding out in Paris and the boys in prison, only recently paroled, is one that kept me turning the pages.

Will Grace reconnect with Riley? Will the truth about her feelings come out? And how will her perceived betrayal change things for them all?

The book’s title was intriguing, in that it suggests a kind of unraveling; instead of “becoming” who she could be, it seems that Grace is moving backward from a good place to one of moral degradation. The events of the story reveal much about her character and how she failed to overcome the obstacles and trials of life, leaning more and more toward the dark side. A fascinating exploration that I will not soon forget. And in the end, even though Grace seems to be living her dream, there is that persistent hole in her heart, the absence of a mother’s love.

Poignant and captivating, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even though there were aspects of the storytelling that could have been better. The unfolding of the tale zigzagged a bit too much, leaving some holes, in my opinion. But this one earned 4.0 stars from me, and I recommend it for those who enjoy a good study of characters in the process of coming undone.


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