This was quite a ride, and I read the entire book in one sitting. Talk about dysfunction, holy shit. Still, this was a thrilling roller coaster ride that had me constantly guessing and second-guessing every single adult's motives and motivations. I never quite knew who to believe, and that made for a very interesting reading experience. The story revolves around Beth and her teenage daughter Dana. I often felt much like Dana, who also never knew who to believe or what was really going on.
The story opens with a look at the lives of this mother-daughter duo who have a strong bond. Beth is a single mom who has worked incredibly hard to provide a safe and comfortable life for herself and her daughter, Dana. I loved seeing these two interact and it was clear that they loved and respected one another...until the lying started. BUT, to be fair, Beth did not have much choice and in when all is said and done, the ends justify the means in this novel. Even so, the author is fantastic at creating complex people who are not perfect, but make the best decisions they can with the limited time/information they have at that moment.
Beth's carefully constructed world comes crashing down when her ex, Dana's father, begins acting a bit strangely. Something is clearly on his mind, he is troubled about something, but Beth has neither the time or patience to deal with him because at this moment, her parents come back into her life, ready to leave another path of death and destruction in their wake as they demand their daughter's attention.
The story is told from the alternating viewpoints of Beth and Dana, and it is easy to see the manipulation by Beth's mom. As I said before, I felt very much like I was Dana, trying to figure out what was going on. I too fell victim to wanting Beth to take care of her mother, to keep her safe from her father, and such. This is another testament to the author's skill at creating great characters - you KNOW her mom is a con artists, but you will want to believe that this time things are legit. And hey, maybe they are. Who am I to spoil it for you?
The novel itself is well-paced and does not drag. I did read it in one sitting after all, because I just HAD TO KNOW. There is a bit of a slow-burn in leading up to the action. The ending was so tense, because up until everything was finally resolved, you had no way of knowing if one more curve ball was going to be thrown at you.
Getting Beth's backstory is what ultimately lead to me wanting to trust her, even though I was at the same time questioning her motives and whether or not she was the one who was lying. It's hard to put a lot of trust and faith in someone who has a go-bag stashed under their bed, along with cash, fake ids, and a gun in a safety deposit box. Beth has been through some shit, and she is a survivor. But this time, it is not only herself she has to think about, but Dana as well.
I have often said in other reviews that I love an unreliable narrator - when they're done well. There are plenty of unreliable characters here, but I do not know that I would classify Beth as unreliable. I think there is a difference in what she says and does, because it is all to protect Dana, verses a narrator like from The Girl on the Train. It's true that both leave out very important bits of information that would be useful to know, but Beth's secrets are understandable in the end.