WARNING: This review contains spoilers.
After reading Sing Unburied Sing, I sensed a consensus in the group to go for something a little lighter and perhaps not so literary. So, we googled something like what to read if you liked Big Little Lies because Liane Moriarty is always a good bet and stumbled across this list – check that list out if you are so inclined.
I wanted The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena because I previewed the first chapter of most of the seven books on the list. As a mom, the thought of my child being taken in the middle of the night is enough to make me want to not sleep a wink until my child is grown up with kids of his own. So, of course, I really wanted so see what happened; who took the baby, desperately hoping that they would get her back, and wondering what really happened. But as I read I began to realize a few things.
I Began to Care Less and Less
The more I got into it, the less I cared. In preparing to write this review, I’ve tried to put my finger on why. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted Anne and Marco to find the baby alive but the further I read, I didn’t care who took her and why. I have settled on a few reasons. First, it’s because when I finally got to the end, I didn’t know what happened; he had the baby but he didn’t? There was double cross, or was it a triple cross? Bottom line, I had difficulty following the thread and ultimately, didn’t care once I got to the end.
I Compared It to Liane Moriarty
Second, I’m not going to tell a lie, I was comparing it to a Liane’s novels. This comparison brought on two observations. I didn’t feel any real connection to the Lapena’s characters. The more books I read the more I discover that for me to enjoy a book, character development is key. Key characters must be whole persons, not just one notes. Yes, Anne suffers from postpartum depression and I appreciate Lapena for including this difficult topic in her narrative. But what I didn’t appreciate it is how besides the “woo-is-me feeling”, Anne doesn’t seem to be developed as a whole person. While I understand that someone suffering with depression of any kind can seem one note, I know that is not the case and I would have appreciated if Lapena had developed Anne further. Her husband Marco was less so. I liked him; I felt sorry for him but that was the extent of it. And maybe that’s what Lapena intended. This book was considerably shorter than most of Liane’s works and she excels at character development and it is true that character development takes time.
Speaking of time, the pace also seemed slow with new information in the case only being revealed every couple of chapters or so; not enough for me to keep the plot moving effectively. It felt like those television dramas that only release information to drive the plot forward in small snippets every few episodes, ie NBC’s Timeless vs. ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy. I don’t know if this story needed the full length of a book; perhaps a short story would have been more effective.
I Was Shocked by the Ending
But the ending, OMG the ending. I did not see that coming and I immediately looked to see if Lapena had written a sequel; she hasn’t which furthered my blasé’ feelings about the book. I almost wished that she had started the book with that! Then working backward, had given us what had led up to it. In that way, she could have provided a more complete back story into Anne’s life which would have developed her character more. It would have been a longer book I it would have made the story more interesting for me.
All in all, a decent read; nothing earth-shattering but nothing egregious either. Kind of like this review.
So, what did you think? Let me know in the comments and join us on Thursday, May 17 at 8:30 PM on the RCM Book Club Facebook Page to discuss.
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