REVIEW: THE PERFECT SON, BY LAUREN NORTH

 

When Tess Clarke wakes up in the hospital the day after her son Jamie’s eighth birthday, she’s sure of these things: She’s been stabbed, her son is missing, her brother-in-law and her grief counselor are involved. But no one is listening to her.

After her husband, Mark, died suddenly in a terrible accident a few months earlier, the only thing keeping Tess together is Jamie. As they struggle to make sense of their new life without Mark, they find joy in brief moments of normalcy like walking to school and watching television together. Life is hard without Mark, but Tess has Jamie, and that’s what matters.

But there in the hospital, confused and surrounded by people who won’t listen, Tess’s world falls apart. To save her son, she must piece together what happened between Mark’s death and Jamie’s birthday, but the truth might just be too much for her to bear.

My Thoughts: From the very beginning moments of The Perfect Son, I was drawn in to Tess’s grieving world through her internal monologues centering around her husband Mark and son Jamie. Her fears and her increasing sense of impending danger carry me along to the point where I felt what she was feeling. Her enemies were mine, and I didn’t trust anyone either.

Alternating narratives from Ian, Shelley, and an interviewer at the hospital offer other perspectives, so as the pages turn, we sense a conflict and a questionable reality. Whose version of the truth should we believe?

What happened on Jamie’s birthday? How did Tess end up hospitalized with a stab wound? Would the truth set her free or thrust her into further darkness? I was stunned by the ending and how events played out. 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR, BY BARBARA CLAYPOLE WHITE

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Hannah Linden and Will Shepard are two damaged souls, brought together by circumstances and bound by the legacies of their broken lives.

Will, a best-selling author, has left Manhattan to go to North Carolina to deal with his aging father Jacob, who is being evicted from his assisted living home, while Hannah, a holistic veterinarian, is coping with her suicidal son Galen.

Will is also carrying the burden of a deep dark secret, the loss of his five-year-old son Freddie.

Hannah rents a cottage to Will and his father, on the recommendation of Hannah’s friend Poppy, who was an art teacher at the facility where Jacob lived, so the connections begin to form between them.

The In-Between Hour is a character-driven story of people dealing with their tragedies and their losses. Set in rural North Carolina, I could smell the scents of the wooded area and see the beautiful colors of the “gloaming,” described in this passage:

“As they crossed the gravel, a thrush–nature’s flautist–announced the gloaming. Another thirty minutes and darkness would fall, but right now the house and the cottage were suspended between day and night, caught in that moment when nothing was defined and everything seemed possible.”

The author’s characters were flawed human beings learning to deal with the effects of the past, with the tragedy of mental illness in their loved ones, and with terrible losses. At the same time, they are struggling to find ways to connect with others, even when their first instincts are to pull away and isolate themselves. A story I recommend for those who enjoy books about relationships, family dynamics, and dealing with loss. 4.5 stars.