This might be one of the most heart-breaking yet touching and hopeful novels I've read in a good long while! From page one the reader is thrown into a crate in a locked attic room with Charlotte and from that moment on you feel every emotion - fright, anxiety, confusion, anger, and, yes, even happiness - with Charlotte and her family as they navigate through this new world created by her kidnapping. I did have to put it down from time to time as the subject matter can be hard to read (let's face it, it is every parent's worst nightmare!) but I always picked it back up and continued as the story is told with such sensitivity and compassion and is an important story to look at in order to be able to approach the subject matter with clarity and empathy.
One of the aspects I appreciated most about Aftermath was just how delicately the story was told. Given the horrid abuse, both psychologically and physically, Charlotte experienced the narrative could have easily become too graphic and salacious, but instead is presented to the reader in the words and views of a young girl who has experienced this abuse, as she might describe it. As I imagine would occur in someone who has experienced such atrocities at such a young age, we get to learn more about the long lasting and far-reaching after effects of the abuse, such as PTSD, guilt, gripping anxieties and even dissociation from herself in order to avoid dealing with what happened to her, then the details of the abuses themselves. I, for one, appreciate the subtlety displayed when discussing the details...you will know exactly what horrors happened to this poor girl without having to read anything too graphic.
Another aspect I really found well done was the mystery surrounding "The One Before", the girl who Charlotte's kidnapper used as a threat to keep her complacent and obedient. I found that adding this mystery and giving Charlotte this goal of finding out what happened to her and making sure the girl's family knew the truth, kept the story from becoming overly heavy with Charlotte's experiences and giving some hope and drive for the character as well as the reader. This aspect really kept the story moving.
Aftermath is by no means an easy read. It digs right into that pit of fear we all have and exposes those nerves we would all rather keep buried. However, I think this is a really important book to read in order to understand and appreciate what someone in Charlotte's situation goes through and feels, and to help us understand the healing process and how to best interact with someone who is dealing with this sort of pain. It's hard to say you "enjoy" a book where the characters go through so much pain, but I am in awe of Clara Kensie's ability to present this story with such tenderness and I'm excited to see what stories she brings to us next. ...more
I think this might be one of the coolest concepts for a thriller I've read in a while! An author who writes a novel that details her sister's murder in order to draw in the killer, all while she can't leave her home due to her anxiety, is brilliant. The fact that the sanity of the person telling the story is called into question from the very beginning makes it even more appealing. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I love unreliable narrators and trying to piece together the truth from the information they are giving to the reader. Melanie Raabe does a wonderful job of stringing the reader along as Linda's trap is laid and the twists and turns of the aftermath fall into place.
From the very beginning it was easy to see that Linda spends the vast majority of her time in her own head, and that her head is full of a fantastical imagination and boundless fear. It also doesn't take long to figure out that Linda herself isn't even sure which of her memories and thoughts are real and which she's made up to fit what she wants to be true. I found Linda to be quite the complex character and, while I didn't particularly like her as a person, I loved her as a character I had to try and decipher. Most of the other characters fell a little flat to me (and none of them were particularly likeable characters) but Linda stood out as a unique and enjoyable character to read about.
I also really enjoyed the format of the story. Mixed in with Linda's current situation of trying to trick the person she emphatically believes killed her sister into confessing and in such a way that she has evidence to present to everyone else (since she is, remember, not the most reliable of people), we get to read excerpts from the novel Linda wrote regarding her sister's murder. I particularly enjoyed these sections as they gave a better understanding of what happened that night - at least what Linda says happened - and that helped fill in some gaps in her current story. I've not read another novel that used this sort of technique, but I really wish more would as I found it really exciting!
I did have some issues with the story that kept The Trap from being a complete hit for me. The fact that none of the characters are particularly likeable didn't influence my enjoyability of the novel too much, but it did make me not care overmuch regarding the eventual outcome for them. The pace of the novel slows down quite a bit around the middle as Linda confronts the would-be killer as well, and I found myself just wanting that long evening of confrontation to get to an end and move on to the next step in the story. There's also a mild love story thrown in for some reason, and I really didn't think this added anything to the story overall.
All things considered I did enjoy The Trap and found that it scratched that psychological suspense itch I've had as of late. It's definitely worth a read for the unique situations and formatting I discussed above and I think those that really enjoy mysteries and thrillers will find it worth a read. This being Melanie Raabe's debut, I'm excited to see what stories she comes up with next!...more
I'm not ashamed to admit I was instantly drawn to Root, Petal, Thorn by the cover. It is just so beautiful, I couldn't help but want to learn more about it. Then reading the synopsis, and loving stories with multiple timelines as much as I do, I knew I needed to read this book. What could Ivy learn from her home and it's previous inhabitants that could possibly help her get over the grief of losing her husband? It turns out quite a lot, and not necessarily what I first assumed.
Ella Joy Olsen fairly gutted me from the very first page as the story begins with Ivy waking up and remembering that her husband is dead. She's been struggling through the healing process while she, and her two kids, continue to ache with their loss. This hit me pretty hard as I imagine I would react in much the same way, and it made me instantly connect with Ivy. Even with this connection, however, I have to say that Ivy wasn't my favorite character (she was great, just not my favorite). There are a number of incredible women sprinkled throughout the history of Ivy's house, and each of them brought a unique perspective to not only the overall story being told but to the time, place, and experiences they lived in.
The various women's stories are told in alternating chapters and my favorite storyline within Root, Petal, Thorn was that of Lainey Harper, a mother (who lived in Ivy's home in the late 60s until Ivy's family moved in) fighting to keep her sanity so she can keep custody of her daughter, while also trying to keep a part of the passion that defines her alive through her art. I found these chapters to be especially poignant as the author did an exceptional job at showing the internal and external struggles both Lainey and her daughter went through due to Lainey's mental illness. Anyone who's known someone who's struggled with mental illness or dealt with manic depression themselves will be able to appreciate this struggle as it unfolds and long for Lainey to be able to find a good stable balance.
Along with this storyline there are women who tackle a myriad of situations - following their heart vs. following what their church and family tell them to do, struggling with the emotions of sending a beloved son off to war, losing a mother at a young age and trying to learn to live without her - and I can't imagine anyone not finding something to relate to or empathize with between these different stories. Some are dealt with and explored more than others, but I think each had its place within the greater story arc and all came back around to the general theme running through them all: in each story of heartache there is a touch of hope, and in each happy story there is a thread of sadness. That is the way of the world and, once a person realizes this, they can survive anything.
Root, Petal, Thorn is a powerful novel, one made up of a patchwork of stories that, while they don't necessarily all fit together neatly, all have a common balance of emotions and epiphanies wrapped up together in one home throughout time. I think just about anyone can find something to enjoy within this story, but I'd especially recommend it to anyone who enjoys an intimate look into the lives of strong, determined women. ...more