Monday, May 29, 2017

Since We Fell

Every so often I read a book and feel that the authors either (a) changed their mind at some point about what they had set out to write or (b) never had a clear plan in the first place. Dennis Lehane's latest novel Since We Fell, is in this category.

We learn in the first pages that Rachel Childs has shot her husband on a boat.  We then flash back to Rachel's childhood.  Rachel is the daughter of a professor who has become famous for writing a book about marriage. The irony is that Rachel's mother has never married and refuses to tell her daughter who fathered her.  The first 100 pages are a gripping story of Rachel's search to find her father.

Then the book veers off slightly. It is again gripping and well written. We learn of Rachel's career and a marriage and divorce. We meet a character who returns after having appeared in the first section when Rachel was searching for father.  For the next 100 pages again the reader is engaged trying to discover the truth about something.  Very suspenseful. Terrifically relayed.  Only problem is that this part is only tangentially related to the first 100 unless...(I will get to the "unless" at the end of this blog).

The third part of the book is so unrelated to the first part that I feel that the author must have decided to hang a left at an intersection and go in a different direction.  And it is in this part that the book, while still a page turner, does not pass the sniff test for plausibility.  I can buy the search for paternity and think the characters are very well drawn. I can buy the search for truth in the second 100 pages though we start to get a little unrealistic.  But the rest-even though I darted through it and wanted to see how it turned out--just is ridickalus. Could not happen. Could not. Would not.  Harlan Coben-esque adventure like.  And I think this is unfortunate because the book had previously been so well drawn and realistic.

The unless part.  A theme of a number of books I have read of late relates to identity and how who we are is not only not monolithic, but not static. Of course who we are is a composite, but how we morph is something a little different. In this book and others, the message--as best as I can tell--is that knowing who we are is a trick made difficult by the fact that who we were may not be who we are, and who we think we and others are is likely to be illusory and/or elusive.

Do I recommend the book? Yes for the first 230 pages or so. But really the search for paternity has almost nothing to do with the last part.  Still, the last 200 are fun to read even if you have to suspend belief while finishing up.  And if you are intrigued by the idea of transforming, evolving, and multiple identity, you might find Since We Fell to be food for musing.

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