Friday, January 3, 2014

Book Review: The Pieces We Keep

By Melissa Amster

While this seemed to be the year of reading books about widows (I'm even reading one currently), something about The Pieces We Keep, by Kristina McMorris, stood out to me and I am definitely glad I picked it up!

Two years have done little to ease veterinarian Audra Hughes’s grief over her husband’s untimely death. Eager for a fresh start, Audra plans to leave Portland for a new job in Philadelphia. Her seven-year-old son, Jack, seems apprehensive about flying—but it’s just the beginning of an anxiety that grows to consume him.

As Jack’s fears continue to surface in recurring and violent nightmares, Audra hardly recognizes the introverted boy he has become. Desperate, she traces snippets of information unearthed in Jack’s dreams, leading her to Sean Malloy, a struggling US Army veteran wounded in Afghanistan. Together they unravel a mystery dating back to World War II, and uncover old family secrets that still have the strength to wound—and perhaps, at last, to heal. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

Right from the beginning, The Pieces We Keep was engaging. It starts out with Audra and Jack going on a cross-country flight that ends up being emotionally disastrous. Then, we're suddenly taken back to the 1940s, where we meet Vivian James, who is at the movies with her boyfriend, Isaak. She's upset that he's not paying attention to her and storms off. Through alternating chapters, we get a full picture of each woman's life. While Audra's story takes place over a couple of months, Vivian's is spread over many years.

The Pieces We Keep was very well written. The dialogue and descriptions were genuine. It was very easy to visualize people and places. I found myself getting lost in the story, like I was sitting to watch a really good movie and forgetting anyone else was in the room with me. The story was suspenseful. Sometimes I thought I knew the answers, but then things would change course and I'd be surprised again. There was a strong emotional impact, as both Audra and Vivian were sympathetic characters and I felt myself truly caring for them and riding along the waves of their feelings at different times.

The only thing that didn't work for me so well was quite minor, but I found some of the World War II background confusing to follow. Kristina did her best to simplify things, but some of it still went over my head. I'm not good with history and especially anything related to wars, so maybe someone with more interest in those topics would have understood it right away.  This didn't take away from my enjoyment by any means, as the characters and story lines were very compelling.

I definitely would recommend The Pieces We Keep and hope Kristina will write another book in this style. (I already recommended it to my mom and she loved it as much as I did!) Fans of Sarah Jio's novels will enjoy this book, and perhaps people who haven't read her novels will want to read them after finishing it. It is similar in style with alternating voices and time periods, as well as a mystery from history. I would love to see these two authors combine forces to write a novel together, as I feel it would be twice as incredible!

Of course, I had this book cast in my head as a movie from the moment I started reading it....

Vivian: AnnaLynne McCord (She played Naomi on 90210 and is beautiful and dramatic enough to play this role to perfection.)
Audra: Thandie Newton (I don't know why, but I immediately pictured her when I started reading and that was the image that stuck. I definitely think she could play Audra in terms of her acting talent.)
Isaak: Aaron Tveit (He played an attractive war leader in Les Miz, so why not?)
Gene: Channing Tatum (Again, I just immediately pictured him as this character as soon as he was introduced in the story.)
Sean: James Snyder (He is in the musical, If/Then, and plays a military guy. I had just seen it before starting this novel, so that's what brought him to mind. It works!)
Tess: Maria Bello (She's the first actress I pictured to play Audra's sassy, no-nonsense boss and best friend.)

Thanks to Kristina McMorris for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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1 comment:

Debbie Haupt said...

Great review, except that I totally "got" the war scenes everything else I agree with you on. Kristina has a special way with words and history that really meshes well with me.