Published by Touchstone on January 23rd 2018
Genres: adult, mystery-thriller
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“[For] fans of crime fiction wanting literary flair and emotional depth.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
Laura Lippman meets Megan Abbott in this suspenseful literary debut about three generations of neighbors whose lives intersect in the aftermath of a crime.
Bernard White is a curmudgeonly widower who has lived in Seven Springs, Florida for decades and has kept to himself since his wife passed. When his neighbor is murdered, he emerges from his solitude to reconnect with his fellow octogenarians. These connections become a literal lifeline as a second, and then a third, elderly woman is murdered, and “the originals” as they call themselves, realize that they are being targeted.
Amy Unger is an artist and cancer survivor whose emotional recovery has not been as successful as her physical one. After the woman next door is murdered, she begins to paint imagined scenes from the murder in an effort to cope with her own loss. But when her paintings prove to be too realistic, her neighbors grow suspicious, and she soon finds herself in the crosshairs of the police.
And then there’s Maddie Lowe, a teenage waitress whose mother recently abandoned the family. As Maddie struggles to keep her family together and maintain the appearance of normal teenage life, she finds herself drawn to the man the police say is the killer.
As they navigate their increasingly dangerous and tumultuous worlds, Bernard, Amy, and Maddie begin to uncover the connections between them, and the past and present, in a novel that ultimately proves the power of tragedy to spark renewal.
I really, really hate when I read an author’s debut and mostly don’t like it. It’s not that the writing was terrible, because it wasn’t. But this book was just sort of all over the place.
The Other Side of Everything is written from three different POVs: an old man named Bernard, a middle-aged painter named Amy with a troubled marriage, and a teenager who works at the local barbecue joint (Maddie). I don’t mind multiple POVs, but they must be done well. And in this case, all of the voices sound the same, and that’s a problem because of the wildly different ages of the characters. Bernard’s wife died, and when they were younger he cheated on her with their neighbor Vera. Amy’s husband left on a one-year job stint to Puerto Rico. He’s an architect and he had a big project there, but he never let his wife know he was going, and their marriage was struggling before that, so now she lives alone in their house. Oh, and she had breast cancer and a hysterectomy, so I can’t image that helps their relationship either because they an’t have kids. Maddie works at the barbecue joint and waits on an older homeless guy every day. Charlie begs outside the restaurant for food all day long, and in the evenings he comes into the restaurant to eat brisket, and Maddie is in love with him, or so she says. Basically all the characters are terrible and unlikable, which I don’t necessarily have a problem with, but something else must compel me to keep reading, and there was just nothing special about this book.
So now we have this murderer killing the old ladies in the neighborhood (three throughout the course of the book), and these three characters are sort of trying to solve this crime while not panicking. Amy is painting the scenes of Adel’s murder, which is really weird and a little demented and completely inappropriate. I wish the author would have called out how bizarre this is but it’s sort of depicted as a normal, artistic thing to do, but it’s not. It’s an invasion of Adel’s privacy, and it bothered me quite a bit that this continued to go on and was seen as okay. Obviously the cops suspect Amy for a while because who the fuck would paint a series of paintings about the murder that happened in the house behind hers?
You keep reading and you keep hoping this book will come together in a way that makes sense, but it’s really disjointed and the plot kind of meanders but is never really interesting. It just ends. The murder is solved, and the book is over. There’s no excitement, and no real climax. The killer is a motivation, of course, but he has no depth, and nor do the characters. This is one of those books where I just kind of wonder what the point of it all was.
This book is forgettable. You can skip it.
I will say that the author paints a lovely, and at the same time, unsettling portrait of South Florida. She really captured the atmosphere and I appreciated it. But that’s about it.
The Other Side of Everything is definitely readable, but I didn’t particularly enjoy it, so I won’t recommend it to others.