It’s a bright, sunny, slightly chilly morning as I sip my steaming cup of chai and nibble on a delicious date bar. With the pandemic still messing with our lives, this year’s Mother’s Day is once again looking very different from past years, but at least the sun is shining and people can get together virtually. I was thinking that the book I read last week was certainly not a book about mothers, but then I remembered the audiobook I listened to, which most certainly was about mothers and motherhood, so I will tell you about that after I talk about the book.
I read Kelley Armstrong’s YA novel, Missing, a fast-paced read that I found difficult to put down. Winter Crane is a high school student who spends most of her time out in the shack in the forest surrounding the southern backwater town of Reeve’s End where she lives with her alcoholic father. All the teens leave, and most never come back. This is also Winter’s plan, and she intends to leave as soon as possible. When she finds a teenaged boy outside her shack who has been savagely beaten, she does her best to help him. When he mentions that he knows her friend Edie, a girl who left town and hasn’t been heard from in quite a while, Winter begins to suspect that some of these teens may not just have left town, but may in fact be missing. With the help of another attractive outsider, she digs deeper and deeper, but what she uncovers could threaten not just her own life, but also the lives of those she loves. Winter Crane was a fabulous character, a teenaged version of Casey Butler from the Rockton series, and her attractive counterpart is a bit like a young Eric Dalton. I felt like I was reading something written long before the Rockton books, a novel that planted the seeds for that adult series; this novel, though, was written in the middle of the Rockton books. It had a riveting story, the plot was well-paced, and it was written with the kind of attention to detail and character/plot/setting balance that one has come to expect from Armstrong. If you liked the Rockton series, or if you just want an interesting, fast-paced YA mystery, you can’t go wrong with this one.
The audiobook I listened to also had a really interesting plot and was a title and an author I’d never heard of before. Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson begins with a book club meeting, one where tired moms of toddlers meet, ostensibly to discuss the book, but really to have a chance to talk to other adults about something other than their kids. But at this month’s meeting, someone new shows up, and that changes everything. Amy and Charlotte are best friends, despite their age difference. It is Char’s book club but the moms all meet at Amy’s house. Everyone is gossiping and complaining as usual when the doorbell rings and Angelina Roux (“call me Roo”), the single mom of a teenaged boy staying at the trashy Air B&B down the street, shows up. Gorgeous, extroverted Roo takes over, pouring the wine and engaging the otherwise ordinary moms in a game of “Never have I ever’, asking them to share their darkest secrets about the worst thing they’ve done in the past week, the past month, the past year… Amy has a secret she never wants to share, a secret pushed so far down that she refuses to even think about it: when she was a teen, she committed a crime that nearly destroyed her. Saved by the discovery of diving, she reinvented herself and made it her mission to live right and do good. But now Roo threatens to unearth her brutal history and reveal it to everyone, including the police. Can Amy find a way to deal with Roo without giving in to her demands and still save herself, her family and those she loves? I don’t usually enjoy novels that are all about the bonds of mothers and children and the lengths mothers will go to protect them, and this one was totally one of those books, but it was also so much more, an intricately-plotted thriller with three-dimensional characters who were (mostly) believable and a fantastic ending that really packed a punch. There were a few parts that I thought were a bit over-long, with Amy contemplating her own guilt and the life she went on to live, and what that says about herself and her character, but overall, it was amazing. I just realized that Jackson narrated it herself, and she did an awesome job. I will look for other books by this author and hope that they are as unputdownable as this one.
That’s all for today. Wishing all the wonderful women out there a Happy Mother’s Day!Bye for now…