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At nineteen, Annie Black trades a bleak future in a washed-out California town for a London winter of drinking and abandon. Twenty years later, she is a San Francisco lighting designer and happily married mother of three who has put her reckless youth behind her. Then a photo from that distant winter in Europe arrives inexplicably in her mailbox, and an old obsession is awakened.
Past and present collide, Annie' s marriage falters, and her son takes a car ride that ends with his life hanging in the balance. Now Annie must confront her own transgressions and fight for her family by untangling the mysteries of the turbulent winter that drew an invisible map of her future. Gripping, insightful, and lyrical, A Small Indiscretion announces the arrival of a major new voice in literary suspense as it unfolds a story of denial, passion, forgiveness—and the redemptive power of love.
A Small Indiscretion was one of those books that I saw on another blog last year and thought to myself Ohhh! I really want to read this!. I occasionally passed by it at Barnes and Noble over the past year and would say to my husband while pointing at it with the excitement of remembering a long-forgotten good idea, “Oh! I have been wanting to read that one!”. Ultimately, the book failed to ever make it to the check-out counter as one of my purchases. I always ended up passing on it. No clue why. It was just one of those books, I guess.
So, I was ecstatic when I actually won a signed copy of this novel that I had been “oh, so wanting to read” for a year. And this is where the problem of all those previous months of anticipation reared its ugly head. I had worked up this book in my mind so much because of the intriguing cover/title combo and the juicy synopsis, and because it was one of those ”TBR” books that was always at the forefront of my mind. When I finally read the book, it was a let down. BUMMER.
I blame myself for this disappoint. The author’s writing was lovely and the story was emotionally complex, bringing to vivid life all the nuances of thought and feeling that would go with the shady scenarios that take place in her novel. I think I might have been more impressed with the story if I had completely forgotten about it over the past year.
It was the (lack of) momentum of the story. When I started this book, I was expecting to be completely compelled, under the spell of a page turning psychological suspense novel but that never came to pass. The pacing was way too slow for me to fall under compulsion and the protagonist was so incredibly unlikable for me, that I found it difficult to empathize with her. If I had liked the MC more, I would have been able to empathize with her despite some really bad decision-making.
I do like the questions the story brought to mind (Was it worth it? What is love? Do you think of your own happiness first?, etc.), and the exploration of the grey areas of life and love and relationships. The story brought to light the cracks in the foundation of an otherwise strong and happy family and gave an example of how a family can work through the worst of tragedies, indiscretions, and betrayals. It also explores the lingering, deeply rooted subconscious effects of first love/infatuation and how the objects of one’s first all-consuming desire can alter the trajectory of one’s life.
The story is a strange combination of intense and boring, forcing one to finish it despite entertaining thoughts of bailing. Kind of like a higher-quality Lifetime Movie. The only character I genuinely liked in this novel was the protagonist’s husband but the story wasn’t about him, so there ya go.
I wish I could have gone into this book without any expectations, but alas, it was not meant to be. Have you read this San Francisco Chronicle’s Book of the Year novel? I’d love to know what you thought about it!