The new standalone novel from Laura Lippman was, to this reader,
unlike anything this wonderful author had written to this point.
[Among her more recent ones, “I’d Know You Anywhere” and “What the
Dead Know” still stand out in my memory and resonate with me.] The
present work is not really a mystery [although there is a death early
on in the book] nor procedural, but instead a series of in-depth
character studies which will be difficult to match.
The author takes her time recreating and juxtaposing scenes from the
past with those of the present, from the time when “everything was
perfect until the moment it wasn’t,” in the lives of five youngsters
in their early teens, three brothers and two young girls. Ultimately
each of these, along with their parents and siblings and extended
families, will have their own chapters, describing events which took
place in 1980, in their native Baltimore, with p.o.v. changes from one
character to another and from those early years to the present time,
when most of them have grown children of their own, all of it shaped
by one pivotal ‘incident’ [insert your own euphemism] which changes
all of their lives forever. The reality of the events of that night
is different for each of them, children and parents alike. And
ultimately it is about secrets kept, or not.
One of the three brothers, Gordon (“Go-Go”) Halloran, nine years old
in 1980 and always the most reckless of the three, although presently
two years sober, leaves the bar at which he has just fallen off the
wagon and does not make it home alive, crashing into a wall at about
100 mph. There is a question about whether it was a tragic accident,
or something somehow worse.
I found this book [in which, btw, Tess Monaghan makes a cameo
appearance] a departure for this author, and very thought-provoking.
I suspect it too will stay in my memory for a long while.
Parenthetically, I loved Ms. Lippman’s description of one perpetually
angry character who, when counting to ten, started at nine. But there
are many memorable moments, and personalities, here.