REVIEW: THE POISON GARDEN, BY A.J. BANNER

 

Elise Watters seems to have it all—a blissful marriage, a gorgeous Victorian home surrounded by lush gardens, and a dream job running her late mother’s herbal boutique.

But on the eve of her first wedding anniversary, Elise makes a shocking discovery that turns her life upside down and casts doubt on everything she thought she knew—about her marriage, her friends, and even herself. As she treads into dangerous territory, Elise is forced to wonder: Is her whole future at stake? Or is paranoia getting the best of her?

If she is to believe what she sees, Elise has every reason to fear for her life…

 

Elise’s first person voice carried us along on an intense path, and just when we thought we knew the source of the danger, we would be struck by still another shock.

Even her best friend was suspect.

I do enjoy a book in which I do not know who to trust. By the end of The Poison Garden, however, I wasn’t sure I could even believe what ultimately happened.

I couldn’t put it down, however, which is why I’m awarding 4 stars.

***

REVIEW: THE EVER AFTER, BY SARAH PEKKANEN

 

Josie and Frank Moore are happy…at least Josie thinks they are. As parents of two young girls in the Chicago suburbs, their days can be both busy and monotonous, and sometimes Josie wonders how she became a harried forty-something mother rather than the driven career woman she once was. But Frank is a phenomenal father, he’s handsome and charismatic, and he still looks at his wife like she’s the beautiful woman he married more than a decade ago. Josie isn’t just happy—she’s lucky.

Until one Saturday morning when Josie borrows her husband’s phone to make a quick call—and sees nine words that shatter her world.

Now Josie feels as if she is standing at the edge of a sharp precipice. As she looks back at pivotal moments in the relationship she believed would last forever, she is also plunging ahead, surprising everyone (especially herself) with how far she will go to uncover the extent of her husband’s devastating secret.

 

My Thoughts: What happens to a wife when she realizes that the life she thought she had was a big lie? The Ever After digs deep into the anger, pain, and distress that foment after a husband’s secrets and lies are revealed.

It was impossible not to feel the agony of Josie’s situation, as the author’s conversational style, along with the great dialogues and monologues, made the reader feel a part of what was happening.

The story goes back and forth in time, showing the reader how the couple first met; unfurled the times in their marriage when they struggled; and revealed the depths of their current agony.

I especially liked how Josie would not simply accept that the revelations her husband had given her could lead to forgiveness. She had to do her own investigating, work through the uncertainty, and finally get some help for the two of them. Mistrust requires brutal honesty between partners if the trust is to be rebuilt. We learned, through the therapy sessions, that a list of tests Josie devised had to be passed on a regular basis for her to finally believe in her husband again. If she ever could. An in-depth experiment in trust-building and working through the emotions of the disaster could begin to illuminate a new path for the two of them. 4.5 stars.

***