Book Reviews

The Truth About Melody Browne by Lisa Jewell

The Truth About Melody Browne is the first novel I read by Lisa Jewell. I thought it was going to be more of a murder mystery/thriller, but it had a quieter suspense.

Melody Browne goes to a hypnotist’s performance, and while there is selected to go on stage and is hypnotized to perform as a 5 year old. Afterwards, Melody is haunted by snippets and whispers of her unremembered childhood. Since she has previously been unable to remember anything in her life prior to the age of 9, Melody takes the surfacing of her memories as an opportunity to hunt down the truth.

“The memories didn’t come in a neat, chronological stream, however. They came in fits and bursts, unconnected to each other, as if someone had taken a pair of scissors to her life, thrown the pieces in the air, and let them float slowly back down to earth, scrap by scrap.”

As a mother, I liked the emotion and relatable content, however I was not prepared for some of the heavier topics in this book. (trigger/content warning: post-partum depression, substance abuse, kidnapping, bullies)

Also, it took me awhile to realize that the “flashbacks” were not actually Melody’s complete memories, rather those sections were for the reader’s knowledge. What Melody remembers is actually in much smaller detail.

Most of the chapters were relatively short and efficient; there were a few sections that were slower but not enough to deter me. Overall, I liked that the writing didn’t have a lot of fluff and tended to get to the heart of the story.

Learn more about Lisa Jewell on Goodreads and her official publisher page.

Spoilers related to review: While post-partum depression plays a prominent theme in the story, another theme is how we view acceptable sources of love. Not all families exist in the nuclear family category. Some have a single parent (I’m a single parent), or no children, or more than two parents (of any kinds: polyamorous, divorced and remarried, etc). The story speaks to the issue that sometimes a child is not placed with the person who loves them the most because they are either not related by blood or by contract. Is the “best” home really the one that can provide the most things, or is it the one that is the most full of love? If it can be the latter, what systems are in place to support those families? How do we measure love and sustenance?

If you need support: This blog does not offer medical treatments, diagnoses, or advice. If you or anyone you know is struggling or has concerns about their mental health, check out these resources listed on the National Institute of Mental Health website. An internet search of resources will also yield results specific to your local area.

Book Reviews

The Woman in the Window/ The Art vs The Artist

Can you separate the art from the artist? I can. We all can. But it’s a conscious choice, and we don’t always do it. Below I provide a review of the book, followed by some information about the author. The rest is up to you.

The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn is a suspenseful thriller/murder mystery/psychological thriller about a woman who doesn’t leave her home. Instead, the outside world comes to her in the forms of her physical therapist, her psychiatrist, the tenant who rents her basement, and the neighbors she spies on through the windows.

(Trigger warnings for this novel: agoraphobia, depression, death, alcohol and substance abuse)

Anna Fox experienced a traumatic event that has left her housebound. Her most constant company is her cat, Punch. Separated from her husband and daughter, Anna copes as best she can – with black and white films, wine, and the suppressed ghosts of her past.

After Anna witnesses a murder in one of the homes that she can see from her window, her world is turned upside down. What is real? What if the truth is worse than you imagined?

I really felt like anybody could have been the culprit – including poor Anna herself.

The writing has an easy flow and once I started reading, I honestly could not put it down. The combination of suspenseful writing with lyricism has great appeal.

One of my favorite quotes is bolded below (beginning added for context): “He’s a cellist; in the warm months, he rehearses with the parlor windows thrown open, so Ed used to hoist ours in turn. We danced one night in some long-gone June, Ed and I, to the strains of a Bach suite: swaying in the kitchen, my head on his shoulder, his fingers knotted behind me, as the boy across the street played on. This past summer, his music wandered toward the house, approached my living room, knocked politely on the glass: Let me in. I didn’t, couldn’t – I never open the windows, never – but still I could hear it murmuring, pleading: Let me in. Let me in!

My heart sang at this – music described anthropomorphically.

I was moved by Anna’s story and believe we can all relate – at least a little bit – to her desire to see what the neighbors are up to. But sometimes, something as seemingly innocuous as that can lead to much more than we bargained for.

A. J. Finn is Dan Mallory’s pen name. As much as I enjoyed this book, I would not have read it had I first read this article by the New Yorker. The following description (combined with the rest of the piece) reminds me of a personal experience I have had with someone who lied, schemed, and manipulated their way through my life:

“Mallory was amusing, well read, and ebullient, and could make a memorable first impression, over lunch, on literary agents and authors. He tended to speak almost without pause. He’d begin with rapturous flattery—he told Louise Penny, the Canadian mystery writer, that he’d read her manuscript three times, once “just for fun”—and then shift to self-regard. He wittily skewered acquaintances and seemed always conscious of his physical allure. He’d say, in passing, that he’d modelled for Guess jeans—“runway only”—or that he’d appeared on the cover of Russian Vogue. He mentioned a friendship with Ricky Martin.”

For the art vs the artist perspective, read this article by The Washington Post. “Surely, it must be unnerving to discover that a colleague has lied repeatedly, elaborately and lucratively about his life. But should that matter to us, his readers? If James Frey taught us anything with his infamous memoir, it’s that autobiographical claims can collapse into a million little pieces of exaggeration and deception. Mallory’s situation is different, though, if more bizarre. How do we reconsider a work of fiction — or any work of art — when confronted with troubling information about its creator?”

The book itself? Great. Everything else? I’ll pass.

While perhaps not the first time it’s happened (nor the last), his actions are egregious enough and hit too close to home for me to want to continue with any future books, and I will not be watching the film.

The New Yorker article is a reminder that the things I experienced at the hands of a psychopath are real – they happen to people all the time, and we may not know until it’s too late. In this instance, the truth is once again worse than I imagined.

I can forgive some things, but not this.