What an amazing read. I picked this up on a whim after seeing it and being intrigued by both the premise and the sampler at Amazon, and I'm glad I did. It's a tense thriller, although I'm not sure thriller is the right label- a contemporary mystery maybe? Regardless of label, it's one of the best books I've read in a while. It concerns a strangled girl and is told from four different perspectives- her best friend, an artist who is a suspect, the diver who searches for her body, and her mother.
Harper is the best friend and she unwittingly sets something in motion when she is interviewed by the police. Martin is the artist who is arrested for murder- he's a black man in a mostly white town- while Tom is the search and rescue diver who has issues of his own that dovetail with the case. And lastly Susanne is the mother of the murdered girl- Joy- and we see the heartbreak of grief through her eyes as the story progresses. Joy was in trouble for drug dealing but a major part of the story is the fact that we don't know Joy. We do however get to know her as her story is slowly revealed.
I was captivated by this tale and the way that the four stories are related. Martin's story was so different from the other three- one of the themes here is how racism can so pervade someone's worldview - even someone who isn't a racist can get tripped in the racial minefield of our society. A lot of stuff is going on in this story- there are explorations of infidelity, secrets, family dynamics- but it all works and is brought together masterfully.
The writing is smart and I was occasionally reminded of Liane Moriarty- the way she weaves details of everyday life, the follies of suburbia, in a way that makes you laugh even as she's telling a story that's more serious. Same thing happening here. In spite of the subject matter I found myself laughing at times- there is humor as well. And there are a lot of connections- once or twice I thought maybe everything was too connected- but that's seriously the only complaint I have. This is the kind of story that makes you think and makes you want to be a better person, if that makes sense.
Don't let the four perspectives scare you off. They work and each one brings something different. They feel like people and their experiences make them seem alive. It's fascinating to think about how different readers will relate differently to these characters- I found Harper and Tom to be most sympathetic, but someone else may have an entirely different reaction. These characters are very well realized and I cared about what happened. The ending is a gut punch and just like real life things can be messy. But there's hope here too and if there's one thing I took away, it's that small things matter- so take the time to see them.