In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.
This story sat in the middle of the road for me. There were some things that I liked about it, but some things that I didn’t. I will just get to it.
I think the author has the potential to be a good storyteller. She has a hauntingly detailed way of telling a story, of making the characters come to life and immersing the reader into their minds and thought processes. As I read the story, I had a strong sense of who all the main characters were from the inside, understanding the actions they took in the story fully.
Though the story was full of layered plots, they all came together in the end. Each character’s story met up with another leading to an interesting ending, which the author reveals in the first chapter. I think she used this effectively to keep my interest by creating a sense of mystery and intrigue to why things ended the way it did.
One weakness was the author muddied the story a bit with so many points of views (POVs). The POVs were mixed up within most of the chapters, and as a reader, I had to read ahead to sometimes understand who the writer was referring to, who was thinking, sometimes who was even talking. I think section breaks or even creating new chapters, possibly having things explained through dialogue, would have helped with clarity.
There was also a lot of telling instead of showing. It seemed like the author wanted to reader to understand every single thing or doubted the reader’s ability to understand some things. The over explanation things, especially concerning Mia’s past, dulled the story and dragged it to a boring level.
Lastly, I found none of the characters likeable, even relatable. They were very much cliché’s of teenagers, mothers, etc. from the ‘90s. Although I don’t mind the use of clichés as there can sometimes be a bit of truth to them, it offered nothing of interest or insight that I often look for in stories and characters. The characters seemed to be the worse versions of themselves, not learning or growing in any positive way. The only one who was remotely relatable in terms of her frustration with the other characters was Izzy, who was unfortunately too much of a rebel for her own good.
I don’t know if I would recommend this book, so I guess I’ll say no. Its not so much due to the plot that’s the problem, it’s the frustrating characters and the fact that the writing style is a little messy with multiple POVs mixed in one scene, over explanation of character backstories, thoughts, and actions, things that slow down the pace.
3 out of 5 stars. The story was slow moving and had a lot of information that could have been omitted or rewritten to propel the story forward. Also there were multiple POVs that took place in a scene that made the story confusing to read at times.