Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Book Review: Stories We Never Told

By Jami Deise

When I was in college and hung up on an ex-boyfriend, I would occasionally eat lunch at his usual spot, or take the long way home so I’d walk past his dorm. My friends would sometimes casually stalk their crushes or exes as well. With the advent of Facebook, it became that much easier to follow along at a distance. Everyone does it. What’s the harm?

In author Sonja Yoerg’s latest, Stories We Never Told, Washington D.C. psychology professor Jackie Strelitz has a friendly relationship with her ex-lover and colleague, Harlan Crispin. In fact, she sometimes goes to dinner with Harlan and her new husband, Mike. But when Harlan starts dating Jackie’s new postdoc, Nasira, Jackie is thrown for a loop. Soon she finds herself driving past Harlan’s house at all hours and obsessing over the new relationship. As Jackie begins to lose control of her behavior, her marriage and her career could be in jeopardy.

Although the pacing of this novel begins slowly and the language of its third-person narration seems a bit distant, the author throws a curve ball about a quarter of the way in that puts the book in a different territory. At first, I found the narrative voice too slow and the action not to be as compelling as I prefer. But after this curve ball, I was all in. Most of the suspense novels I read feature short chapters, quick timelines, and many cliffhangers. Yoerg offers more of a slow burn, with lots of build-up and nebulous actions that lead characters and readers wondering if anything is really going on at all, a la Gaslight. This variation gave the book a much more realistic feel than other domestic thrillers. After reading the entire novel, my only real complaint is that Yoerg mixes real D.C. locations with a fake college, making this native of the D.C. suburbs a little dizzy.

Despite its slow beginning, readers should stick with Stories We Never Told. Fans of Saran Pekkanen and Greer Hendricks’s An Anonymous Girl and Caroline Kepnes’s You should find the narrative especially enjoyable.

Thanks to Tall Poppy Writers for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Sonja Yoerg:

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