Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Book Review: When We Fall
Ready for a fresh start, Allison Parker moves back to her hometown in the suburbs of New York. While she’d once savored the dynamic pace of city life, sadly, it lost its allure after her husband’s untimely death. Now, ready to focus on her art career accompanied by her ten-year-old son, Logan, Allison doesn’t anticipate that her past will resurface. When the wife of her husband’s best friend from summer camp takes her under her wing, things begin to spin out of control.
At one time, Charlotte Crane thought she had it all—a devoted husband, a beautiful little girl, and enough financial security to never have to worry. But behind her perfect facade lie a strained marriage and a fractured relationship with her sister. When new girl Allison arrives in Wincourt, Charlotte welcomes the chance to build a friendship. Before long, Charlotte begins to see her life through Allison’s eyes, and the cracks in her seemingly flawless existence become impossible to ignore.
As Allison heals from the loss of her husband—even wondering if she might be ready to date again—Charlotte feels more distant from her loved ones than ever before. The emerging friendship between the two women appears to be just the antidote both of them so desperately need...until everything falls apart. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)
There are times when you open a new book and you just know it’s going to be well-written. This was the case with Emily Liebert’s second novel, When We Fall. There is a short paragraph prior to first chapter that is so beautifully written that the reader is instantly captivated. If you, like myself, have not read one of her books previously, you will not be disappointed. Nor is there any wonder why Ms. Liebert has received the praise she has (and from the likes of Jane Green to boot!). She offers insight into female relationships (both friendship and familial) as well as loss of various kinds.
Ms. Liebert has created many strong characters that carry the story. Readers will likely be able to see elements of themselves in both Allison and Charlotte. Allison is the obvious protagonist; she is the one readers will like from the beginning and will empathize with. However, Charlotte plays an equally important role in the story and is just as much a central character, although rougher around the edges. I saw more of myself in who Allison is as a character, but I could identify with Charlotte’s situation more on some levels.
One of the best parts of this novel is the relationship between Allison and Charlotte. It demonstrates the glorious way that friendship can change you and challenge you to think differently about your life. Quite interesting to me is the relationship between Charlotte and her sister Elizabeth and how it differs so drastically from the relationship that Allison develops with Elizabeth.
As far as the other characters go, Sabrina is one that you will not like, and you aren’t supposed to. She is the epitome of the mean girl grown up. It is unsettling how much someone’s poison can infiltrate other’s lives. Dempsey is charming and wonderful. Every woman will wish she had a Dempsey in their lives (although, I admit, I kept thinking about bread every time I saw his name… Dempster’s/Dempsey). I wasn’t sure how to feel about Charlie because it’s easy to make him the villain. If anything, he represents a key theme to the novel: things are rarely as they appear on the surface. Another key theme that is a universal truth that every reader can identify with is how important communication is to successful relationships and how things can absolutely fall apart due to misunderstandings.
Due to the way my analytical mind works, I always try to figure out how things are going to play out in a novel and I pride myself on being right whenever I am. In this case, I was close in terms of guessing how the “everything falling apart” would, well, fall apart. As much as I like being the chick lit plot sleuth, I do enjoy it when authors throw a twist at me that I didn’t see coming, and Ms. Liebert was quite successful in doing so. Kudos to this talented author on her exceptional writing skills that will no doubt garner her a legion of fans, including myself.
I haven't read Emily's debut novel, You Knew Me When, but now that I've read When We Fall, I definitely want to go back and do that. I admire her writing style. It's very genuine and the dialogue flows naturally between her characters. I almost felt like I was eavesdropping on real conversations! She also knows how to take characters who seem either sympathetic or completely frustrating and change our view of them in a split second. The only one who remains a constant is Allison, as she is who she is throughout the story and eventually becomes a victim of the underlying drama. She is likeable the entire time and easy to trust no matter what is being said behind her back.
Charlotte, on the other hand, is a difficult character to like, even when I think I could relate to her and even want to consider a friendship with her. I don't want to say how, when, or why she has to redeem herself for how she treats people, but I'm relieved when that happens. I almost wish that Emily had included Charlotte's sister, Elizabeth, as one of the narrators. I would have loved to hear her perspective on a more personalized level. She was the most fascinating to me. Perhaps Emily will feature her in a future novel?
A concept Emily wanted to focus on a lot in this novel is that of friendship between a man and a woman when one or both parties is married or in a serious relationship. Can men and women still be friends under such circumstances? She has a great article in Huffington Post about it. She also talks about female friendships and how catty and judgmental women can be towards each other, which is evident in this novel, as well. I think she handles both concepts in an intriguing way that kept me turning the pages and not wanting to stop!
Overall, this was a well-written novel and I look forward to reading more of Emily's writing. She has a bright future ahead of her.
My dream cast for the movie of this novel:
Allison: Sarah Chalke
Charlotte: Jennifer Garner
Elizabeth: Olivia Wilde
Allison's mother: Deborah Rush
Charlie: Josh Duhamel
Dempsey: Christian Kane
Thanks to Sarah Hall Productions and Penguin's First to Read program for the books in exchange for an honest review.