Sunday, July 8, 2012

Book Review: and she was

Book Review
 and she was
by: Alison Gaylin
When I started writing for ‘real’ (with publication as my ultimate goal), I decided to make it a point to buy and read authors that I’d never read (or even heard of) before. Maybe I was hoping to bank some Karma points. Maybe I was curious to see what it took for a “no name” author to get published. Probably both.
 I bought and she was with the intention of reading it and writing a review. In March, and I really wanted to like it. I mean, I really, really wanted to like this book. Besides, it got blurbs from Lee Child AND Harlan Coben—no brainer, right?

Not so much.
I stuggled, but I finally forced myself to finish it a few days ago (I read roughly a dozen books in between… plus writing my own.) and decided, to be fair, I’d give myself time to “digest” it. I’m glad I did.

First, the positive:

The cover.
It drew my eye and grabbed me instantly. My hat’s off to whoever designed it. The use of color and styling is fantastic.
The writing.
Is fantastic! Gaylin knows how to turn a phrase. She left me, again and again, in a state of writer’s envy. Her use of language was interesting and thought-provoking. I found myself re-reading passages, not because I didn’t understand them, but because I like the way they sounded—and because I wished I had wrote them.
The premise is a good one.
P.I. Brenna Spector suffers from a neurological disorder that enables her to recall, in detail, everyday of her life. Spector, a divorced mother, is often bogged down in the past, so entrenched in memories, that living in the present is often impossible. Her disorder, triggered at a young age by her teenage sister’s disappearance, is often in control. I liked that while her disorder is often used to her advantage, Gaylin shows us how debilitating it can be. Searching, first for a client’s wife, and then her murderer when her client is accused of killing her, Spector becomes entangled in the 10+ year-old case of a young girl who goes missing in the same town.
The characters are vivid.
We see Spector in every aspect of her life. Private investigator. Mother. Ex-wife—it’s all here. We feel her struggle to break free of a past that never fades. We empathize with her as we watch her flounder as a mother who has failed to completely connect to her daughter and as an ex-wife who still loves her ex-husband, simply because she can’t forget how.
Spector’s assistant, Trent, is almost worth the price of admission, all on his own. He presented the perfect foil for the almost rigid Spector—100% Jersey Shore and funny as hell. Every time he made it on the page, I laughed out loud.
The plot was solid
In my opinion, this is completely different than, “the plot was great!” What this means, to me, is that there were no plot holes. It’s obvious that the author took her time when plotting this novel, and she did it well, but…
And this brings me to the not so positive:

The plot was slow.
and she was (this is how it is laid out on the book cover—all lower case), is touted as “A novel of suspense”… only, it wasn’t very suspenseful. Maybe this is because we only got a few glimpses of the antagonist and incidentally, he was the least fleshed-out of all the characters. Which made him kinda boring. The antagonist is just as important as the protagonist—especially in the suspense and thriller genres. Your antagonist (if he or she is a “bad guy”) should be larger than life. Gaylin’s antagonist was a throw-away character that seemed easily defeated, which really disappointed me.

What I bought was not what I got.
I bought a book about murder, a missing girl and the protag’s struggle to bring a killer to justice. While and she was had all these things, at the end of the day, that’s not the book I felt like I read.  and she was had a political-thriller feel to me (nothing wrong with political thrillers!) that I wasn’t looking for. Corrupted law-enforcement. Wealthy city officials buying their way out of trouble… unfortunately, this slowed the read for me.

The ending was a total rope-a-dope.
By this, I mean it came out of nowhere. Totally NOT where the book (or the reader) was headed at all, which left me feeling a bit cheated. Not that it didn’t make sense (because the plot WAS solid), just that when it all came together, I was left saying, “Really?” And not in a good way.

All in all, and she was, was a mixed bag for me. There were things I LOVED about the book, and things I didn’t. If you’re into books that are more character-driven than plot-driven, then this is a book for you. It might surprise you to know that if Gaylin writes another Brenna Spector novel, I’ll be among the first in line to plunk down my $8.50 for a chance to read it. I was that drawn to Gaylin's characters and use of language.

plot problem? writing question?


  1. I was wondering if you were lost in the writing jungle..glad to see you back. I am intrigued by this review and will look at it. i assume you found it via amazon?

  2. thanks, Brock! I've been buried under a pile of kids for the past six weeks (gotta love summer vacation!), but I see a light at the end of the tunnel! I wrote this review myself and will be doing more of them as time allows... as always, thanks for reading. :)