Fiction, What Shannon Read

The Woman in the Window

40389527I knew what I was in for with The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn and I read it anyway. Apparently, the world is not yet tired of unreliable, boozy narrators a la The Girl on the Train and the violence they can’t seem to prevent from their proverbial perches.

Why is this a thing?

So, yeah, I didn’t really like The Woman in the Window. But I didn’t hate read it either. I just kind of went along wanting to see what would happen. Also, I love a good shut-in story. Aside from the agoraphobia, the estrangement of her family, and her impending divorce, narrator Anna Fox is kind of living the dream. She’s educated, wealthy, lives in a 4,000 sq. ft. NY brownstone, drinks a lot of wine (Ok, too much; alcoholism is not funny), and does pretty much whatever she wants all day. So…

Anyway, Anna is a children’s psychologist who is, we assume, estranged from her husband and daughter, though she talks to them every day. She’s agoraphobic and can’t leave her house. She spends part of her time watching the neighbors through the viewfinder of her camera. She also plays online chess, helps other agoraphobics through an online forum, and she is a classic film buff who is passionate about thrillers. Hitchcock and the like. There are a ton of classic films mentioned. It’s sometimes fun and sometimes borders on obnoxious. Like, OK, you don’t have to compare every mundane situation to an event or character in an obscure classic thriller.

Anyway, the real drama enters when Anna spies on her new neighbors. She meets the mother of the family, named not surprisingly after an old move star, Jane Russell, and eventually becomes embroiled in that family’s drama in a kind of Rear Window situation.

Tbh, I found this book to be a less adept version of The Girl on the Train. As I said above, the themes were similar, but the writing was also not all that captivating, and I also felt that the story did not build logically to one of the big reveals at the end—the answer to the question, “Who is the real Jane Russell?” I totally predicted the other big reveal about Anna’s family in, like, chapter 2.

Rating: 2.5 blood-curdling screams

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Fiction, What Shannon Read

The Perfect Mother was meh

35887193I finished The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy last week. I love a good kidnapping (not in real life, you know what I mean) and enjoy well-written thrillers, so this seemed like a good fit. I found Molloy to be a competent writer, but otherwise wasn’t too enamored.

The story centers on the May Mothers, a group of women living in NYC who gave birth in the same month and joined an online forum. They meet up in person to, you know, trade mom secrets and stories and try to one up each other as is usual in mom groups (I’ve found).

That’s one of the things that drew me to the book. I love the cattiness of the typical mom group. And I knew there’d be some in a thriller that focuses on motherhood.

One member of the group is a gorgeous woman, Winnie, the only single mother in the group. Because she seems to be suffering from the baby blues, the May Mothers organize a moms night out, providing Winnie with a babysitter, and meet up at a local bar for some fun.

Except that Winnie spends most of the evening looking at the baby monitor app on her phone. Her friend Nell surreptitiously deletes it in order to encourage Winnie to let go. Drinks are had. And, inevitably, the night ends in disaster when Winnie goes home to discover her baby is missing.

Here’s how Goodreads describes the rest of the book:

Though none of the other members in the group are close to the reserved Winnie, three of them will go to increasingly risky lengths to help her find her son. And as the police bungle the investigation and the media begin to scrutinize the mothers in the days that follow, damaging secrets are exposed, marriages are tested, and friendships are formed and fractured. 

Sounds juicy, right? But I found the book to be completely disjointed as it switches from mother to mother, changing perspective, revealing some complicated drama in each mother’s home life, but never giving a thorough examination of any.

SPOILER ALERT

The baby is found and it turns out it’s one of the May Mothers, Scarlett, who we don’t really get much background on until the end. So it feels a bit untidy as an ending.

In my opinion, this wasn’t much of a thriller. The best parts of the book, for me, were the glimpses into early motherhood and how the four or so main characters were handling it. I’d honestly read a book like that without the thriller elements and be OK with it.

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