When Sherri moves to town with her 10 year old daughter Katie, she manages to upset the tight knit and cliquey group of mothers by befriending the grieving widow Rebecca, who has a daughter the same age, and a teenage daughter Alexa. Alexa is at somewhat of a loose end over the Summer, and babysits for Katie, who wakes screaming from nightmares, which intrigue the teen. Each has a secret: Sherri is running from her past, Rebecca is dating, and Alexa is making big bucks with her popular You Tube channel. But can secrets be kept for long in the small town of Newburyport, Massachusetts, where every body knows everyone’s business?
The author has the small town life down pat, because she actually lives in Newburyport, and had pulled some of the stores, local foods and yearly events from experience. She says that the people aren’t based on anyone in her town, but she really captures the way that small towns are full of gossip, judgements, nosey types, and everyone not only knows every one but loves to gossip about them. She manages to use this to good effect to create some really funny, insightful moments, and also to create tension. There are big repurcussions for the characters if their secrets are discovered.
The book is written in the third person (he, she, etc), which is so good. There are far too many first person (I, we) out there at the moment. It can get a little boring.
Actually, there was a lot about this book that I found refreshing. It’s a really great beach read. It’s gossipy and has family secrets and drama between friends, and it’s really funny sometimes, but grounds this with very real tension and problems, like greif, domestic violence and crime, and gives us characters who feel well rounded. The way that little titbits of information about our characters pasts and the secrets they’re keeping are dropped sparingly keeps you turning pages, wanting to see where it’s going. The book would describe itself as being a drama with thriller elements. The back cover likens it to Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, and I think this is a really good comparison. If you like Moriarty, you’ll like this too.
The group of mothers in Newburyport are written with one voice, as though they are a kind of hive mind, a bunch of wasps with their stings ready. They’re really gossipy, judgemental, and are really funny because they’re such hypocrits and so completely lacking in self awareness. They are also really obsessed with Alexa, and who she is friends with, dating, what she’s wearing…. They’re pretty awful a lot of the time, but they often made me laugh.
Sherri and Rebecca are the heart of the book and their problems really ground the book. Grieving is really difficult, and the way that friends don’t really understand and can often feel uncomfortable and want things to go back to the way they were is very real. Rebecca is a very sympathetic character, and I liked that she and Sherri were able to bond. Sherri is very likable too. She used to have a beautiful life, with plenty of money and clothes, and now she’s starting over, with her own past that she has to grieve for and recover from. She’s also on the run from some very bad people…
I think Alexa really steals the show though. The author doesn’t try too hard to be cool or to use pop culture idioms, or to force technology into the narrative, which is a mistake some authors fall into and leads to a really awkward narrative. (I think she’s slightly underestimated how much work a YouTube influencer has to do and how many followers she would need to have to get the amount of money Alexa makes, but it’s a minor thing) Alexa is pretty great. She’s a good person, but sometimes if self absorbed or shallow, and when she is, it’s really funny. I love her over confidence and big dreams, her bluntness, her lack of boundaries when she’s in other people’s homes. She’s got it all together on the outside, but on the unside, I liked that she longed for a deep bond, like she’s read about friends having in books. She’s so of her age. I really liked her.
I really had fun reading this. I think the humor is well balanced with the tension, the hysterical mom squad with Rebecca and Sherri’s real problems. The younger generation starting to strike out in life with adults making fresh starts with a more jaded eye. The lead characters are heartfelt like likable, and I liked finding out their secrets. This is a really entertaining read.
Read It If: this is a great one to take and read on the beach. HIghly recommended as a read you can escape into. Not too heavy and serious, not too light and fluffy.
Thank you Harper Collins Canada for the review copy of this book. All opinions are my own, honest thoughts.
Two Truths And A Lie is out 6/16/20