REVIEW: GOODNIGHT BEAUTIFUL, BY AIMEE MOLLOY

A handsome psychotherapist. His lonely wife. And in his home office ceiling, a vent …
You’d listen too, wouldn’t you? (You know you would.)Newlyweds Sam Statler and Annie Potter are head over heels, and excited to say good-bye to New York City and start a life together in Sam’s sleepy hometown upstate. Or, it turns out, a life where Annie spends most of her time alone while Sam, her therapist husband, works long hours in his downstairs office, tending to the egos of his (mostly female) clientele. Little does Sam know that through a vent in his ceiling, every word of his sessions can be heard from the room upstairs. The pharmacist’s wife, contemplating a divorce. The well-known painter whose boyfriend doesn’t satisfy her in bed. Who could resist listening? Everything is fine until the French girl in the green mini Cooper shows up, and Sam decides to go to work and not come home, throwing a wrench into Sam and Annie’s happily ever after.

Showcasing Molloy’s deft ability to subvert norms and culminating in the kind of stunning twist that is becoming her trademark, Goodnight Beautiful is a thrilling tale of domestic suspense that not only questions assumptions but defies expectations.

Alternating narrators take us through the pages of Goodnight Beautiful, and in the very beginning, I thought I had the identities of the narrators sorted. But I was wrong.

And then, when our protagonist Sam Statler disappears suddenly, I had my theories about that incident, too. I was wrong again.

Not wanting to introduce spoilers, I will admit that I was stunned about the identity of the first-person narrator, the landlord of the house where Sam has his office space. I did not learn this fact until more than halfway through the story.

What is going on? I was puzzled and intrigued…and the story gripped me at this point as I tried to guess what might happen next.

Twists and turns take us through some harrowing times for both Sam and Annie, and as we learn more about the darkest character, we can almost see the writing on the wall. But then, suddenly, things change and the characters we are rooting for have their happy ending. 5 stars.

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REVIEW: OUR LITTLE LIES, BY SUE WATSON

 

Marianne has a life others dream of. A beautiful townhouse on the best street in the neighbourhood. Three bright children who are her pride and joy.

Sometimes her past still hurts: losing her mother, growing up in foster care. But her husband Simon is always there. A successful surgeon, he’s the envy of every woman they’ve ever met. Flowers, gifts, trips to France – nothing is too good for his family.

Then Simon says another woman’s name. The way he lingers on it, Caroline, gives Marianne a shudder of suspicion, but she knows she can’t entertain this flash of paranoia.

In the old days, she’d have distracted herself at work, but Marianne left her glamorous career behind when she got married. She’d speak to a friend, but she’s too busy with her children and besides, Simon doesn’t approve of the few she has left.

It’s almost by accident that Marianne begins to learn more about Caroline. But once she starts, she can’t stop. Because what she finds makes her wonder whether the question she should be asking is not ‘should she be jealous’, but… ‘should she be scared’?

 

My Thoughts: It didn’t take very long for me to hate Simon, with his criticisms, his bullying, and his crazy-making behavior, but Marianne was so damaged and so beaten down from this behavior and from her childhood that she was also difficult to endure.

Our Little Lies is a journey into the dark dynamics of a truly toxic marriage, and sometimes I just wanted one of these characters to step up and make some changes.

On the edge of my seat, I rapidly turned pages and wondered which of them would truly go nuts and do whatever they had to do to stir the pot until it boiled over.

The back and forth between the two marital partners grew more and more tedious, for me, as I couldn’t believe that they could sustain that level of animosity without doing grave harm to each other…or to someone else. Finding out what would ultimately happen did keep me reading. 4.5 stars.

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REVIEW: OUR HOUSE, BY LOUISE CANDLISH

 

When Fiona Lawson comes home to find strangers moving into her house, she’s sure there’s been a mistake. She and her estranged husband, Bram, have a modern co-parenting arrangement: bird’s nest custody, where each parent spends a few nights a week with their two sons at the prized family home to maintain stability for their children. But the system built to protect their family ends up putting them in terrible jeopardy. In a domino effect of crimes and misdemeanors, the nest comes tumbling down.

Now Bram has disappeared and so have Fiona’s children. As events spiral well beyond her control, Fiona will discover just how many lies her husband was weaving and how little they truly knew each other. But Bram’s not the only one with things to hide, and some secrets are best kept to oneself, safe as houses.

 

My Thoughts: In the opening lines of Our House, we are stunned by what Fiona Lawson sees, as she comes home after a few days away: moving vans and a strange family unloading them. They are moving into her house!

Flashback to the previous summer when Fiona caught Bram cheating on her. It wasn’t the first time. So the split would change their lives, but they thought their solution for the children was the perfect one. The so-called Birds’ Nest custody arrangement had the children permanently in the house, with the parents taking turns moving in and out. A flat nearby was where the off-duty parent would stay.

Next, our narrators take us back and forth in time: Bram’s Word doc reveals his story, while Fi’s podcast confessions on The Victim offer her perspective. Slowly we come to discover the intricacies of how Fi ended up losing her house, and what happened to Bram to take them there.

It is not a simple story, and there are so many twists and turns, with a final unexpected one at the end. But this story is not divided into villains and victims…unless we label some of the other parties. But someone has gone to a lot of trouble to unravel their lives. And both Bram and Fi have made choices that led them to this place.

Did the Birds’ Nest arrangement set this family up for what happened? Could secrets and lies from the past have added to their vulnerability? And would the final denouement leave questions unanswered, with more heartache ahead? Rapidly turning pages kept me guessing and wondering, and made me feel empathy for both Bram and Fi. They felt like people who might have been our friends and neighbors. 5 stars.***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley