REVIEW: WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT, BY MARY KUBICA

 

Jessie Sloane is on the path to rebuilding her life after years of caring for her ailing mother. She rents a new apartment and applies for college. But when the college informs her that her social security number has raised a red flag, Jessie discovers a shocking detail that causes her to doubt everything she’s ever known.

Finding herself suddenly at the center of a bizarre mystery, Jessie tumbles down a rabbit hole, which is only exacerbated by grief and a relentless lack of sleep. As days pass and the insomnia worsens, it plays with Jessie’s mind. Her judgment is blurred, her thoughts are hampered by fatigue. Jessie begins to see things until she can no longer tell the difference between what’s real and what she’s only imagined.

Meanwhile, twenty years earlier and two hundred and fifty miles away, another woman’s split-second decision may hold the key to Jessie’s secret past. Has Jessie’s whole life been a lie or have her delusions gotten the best of her?

My Thoughts: From the first page of When the Lights Go Out, I thought that I had a good grip on where this story was going. Narrated by two characters, twenty years apart, we slowly learn the story of a mother and a daughter. But the bizarre twists and turns lead us to scratch our heads and ponder everything we thought we knew.

Who is Jessica Sloane? What secrets did her mother, Eden, keep from her, and why? How did Jessica’s grief lead her down some very uncertain pathways? Has Jessica been living with a stolen identity? Was her life a lie…or a strange dream?

As I read, I couldn’t help thinking of movies I’ve seen in which the conclusion shows that the whole story has been a fabrication…or a Twilight Zone of some kind. So I felt stunned. And as if I, too, had been led into a kind of alternate reality, which I then had to interpret and sort through. Until the last sections, I was headed toward a 5 star rating…instead, 4 stars from me.


***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

REVIEW: BORN WITH TEETH: A MEMOIR, BY KATE MULGREW

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The first daughter of Joan and Thomas Mulgrew came into the world with four tiny baby teeth, and while the parents were amazed and crowed over her beauty, the friends and neighbors in Dubuque, Iowa, worried that being so proud of her looks would bring nothing good.

Eventually, however, the tiny teeth were removed by the doctor, and the baby grew normally, developing a zest for solid food.

Thus began the life of Kate Mulgrew, who was followed by several more babies, until the family eventually moved to a larger house in the country, one they came to call Derby Grange.

Born with Teeth is a memoir, but it reads like a fictional story at times, and I held my breath, wondering what would unfold next. Not having read much about this actress before this book, I was drawn into the story of how she came to attend Stella Adler’s Studio of Acting as a teenager; how she starred in various productions through the workshop; and eventually joined a soap opera called Ryan’s Hope. While on that show, she fell in love with a young man…and got pregnant. The pregnancy was written into the show, but sadly, afterwards, she gave up the baby, a girl, for adoption. This loss would follow her throughout the years.

Theater was her first love, but she came to appreciate television production, and went on to be a part of another TV show called HeartBeat, in which she starred as a doctor. I remember this show, and enjoyed watching her perform.

Love came along, too, and two beautiful sons. But the marriage would not survive….and she escaped to Ireland to heal. Where she met her true soul mate. But would that relationship survive, with all the obstacles that stood in their way?

Meanwhile, her biggest show yet was about to come. Star Trek: Voyager would come to be one remembered by most people. The show was on for seven seasons.

Now she is a wonderful star in Orange Is the New Black, where she inhabits the role of Red as only she can.

Would Kate eventually find the happiness and love she longed for? Would her life settle into something peaceful? Turning the pages was a very satisfying experience for me, as I wanted to find the answers, too, and I enjoyed her writing style, which felt as though we were having a conversation. Then, in the final, suspenseful chapters, I felt a wonderful satisfaction about the events that unfolded. 5 stars.

REVIEW: THE ESCAPE ARTIST, BY DIANE CHAMBERLAIN

 

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When Susanna Miller loses custody of her 11-month old son Tyler to her ex-husband Jim and his new wife Peggy, she is afraid that her life is over.

From the moment she first discovered that Jim was cheating on her with Peggy, right after she discovered she was pregnant, she has been in free fall, descending into the darkness that will soon become her life.

Her best friend Linc Sebastian, who lived next door to her in childhood and has now become her lover and her support system, believes that they can somehow make it anyway.

But what Susanna does next will change all of their lives.

She has planned ahead, and the morning of the day she was supposed to turn over Tyler, she is on the run, with a new identity, some cash, and a plan. Her journey takes her across country from Boulder, Colorado, to Annapolis, Maryland, where she slowly begins anew as Kimberly Stratton.

The Escape Artist was a riveting story that had a few implausible twists and turns, but I couldn’t stop reading it. Soon I was immersed with Kimberly in her new life with her new friends, like an artist named Adam Soria and his sister Jessie. And in her cute apartment in an old Victorian, she finds support from her new landlady Ellen and her neighbor Lucy.

But the secrets she must hide keep her from truly connecting, and then she makes a dark discovery that seems to threaten the new life and bring everything to a screeching halt.

What is the meaning of the strange file Kim has found on the used computer she bought? What happened the night someone broke into her apartment, making her feel totally unsafe again?

In the end, everything fell into place pretty neatly, and while I was happy with the conclusions, it all felt a little bit unlikely. Still an enjoyable read for fans of Chamberlain and for all those who can relate to family/custody situations. 4.0 stars.