Tuesday, May 2, 2017
"The Fall of Lisa Bellow" by Susan Perabo
When I received this book from the publisher, I didn't know much about it but was very intrigued by the premise. The popular girl at school gets kidnapped, and a nerdy girl is left behind? Sounds fascinating. And Perabo added depth and nuance to this premise to create a fascinating book.
Meredith is picking up a soda after school when the deli is robbed. The clerk is knocked out and Lisa Bellow, the most popular girl in Meredith's eighth grade class, is kidnapped. Meredith is left lying on the floor, wondering why she was left. Now she and her family have to figure out how they move forward after this traumatizing event.
Meredith's family is no stranger to trauma. Her older brother, Even had his eye shattered by a rogue baseball, ending his promising baseball career before it got started. The novel alternates perspectives between Meredith and her mother, Claire, to show how Meredith's experience and process of coping affects the entire family. My minor quibble with the book is that Evan's story often seems like a distraction from Meredith's. However, the relationship between Evan and Meredith is worthwhile, especially seeing how their dynamic shifts as they each try to move on from their own trauma.
The most outstanding feature of the book is how it examines the same incidents from both Meredith and Claire's perspectives. Early in the book, Meredith and her friends discuss Lisa and the popular clique, and some major slut-shaming occurs. I was skeptical, and wondering how this could be so casually inserted without comment. I was too hasty. Cut to Claire's perspective, and we see a mother questioning how she raised a daughter to think so poorly of others without recognizing the harm in her own behavior. Such incidents from both sides add nuance and depth to the novel.
Verdict: Affirmed. What could have been a gossipy novel or average thriller is elevated to a compelling portrait of a family in a time of crisis.
"The Fall of Lisa Bellow" by Susan Perabo, published March 14, 2017 by Simon & Schuster.