Monday, November 13, 2023

Book Review: Anything for a Friend

By Jami Denison

Kathleen M. Willett has followed up her sensational debut, Mother of All Secrets, with another domestic thriller about a mom with secrets. In Anything for a Friend, a writer invites her old college roommate to stay at her family’s beach house. But this old friend knows her biggest secret. Will the decision come back to bite her?  

Carrie Colts is already hiding one secret—a regrettable extramarital affair with Kyle, who won’t take her ghosting as an answer. Now she’s unhappily living in Montauk, in her deceased mother-in-law’s house, with her angry teenage daughter Kelsey and her oblivious husband, Pete. When her college roommate and best friend, Maya, calls her after her husband dies of a heart attack, Carrie invites her and her teenage daughter, Lola, to stay, even though she and Maya have barely spoken since college graduation. But Carrie soon regrets her invitation. Weird things start happening around the house: Her herb garden is mutilated. Her college yearbook photo is cut out. Is it the creepy neighbor next door… or could it be Maya or Lola? 

One of the reasons domestic thrillers are so popular is that the main character is an ordinary woman trying to live her life. That’s also why it’s important that the protagonist be someone the reader can identify with. And Carrie, who has enormous flaws, is easy to identify with, and even with those flaws, she’s highly likeable. Having a character like her puts the reader in an enjoyable, superior position: We can like her and feel sorry for her, all the while knowing we’d never be so stupid or thoughtless to get ourselves in the same mess. (At least, that’s what we tell ourselves!)

The novel, which is primarily told from Carrie’s first-person point-of-view (with third-person flashbacks to their college days from Maya’s perspective), unfolds at a good pace, with the tension steadily increasing and the stakes getting higher. And during the “all is lost” moment, Willett does a nice job of tying together two separate subplots. 

But the ending didn’t really work for me. Even though the narration is first person, Carrie holds onto her secret until the bitter end without providing a single clue about what she’s hiding. Willett does a great job establishing Carrie as the type of character who could do what she did, but I needed more hints about this huge episode in her past. And I found the climax and denouement to be unbelievable. A thriller with big twists should end with the reader feeling like all the pieces have slid into place and wondering why she didn’t see what was coming. Anything for a Friend had me questioning character intelligence and motivation. 

Of course, this is just my opinion, and a more astute reader might have seen clues that I overlooked. And my dissatisfaction with the ending won’t stop me from reading whatever Willett writes next. Every writer has some missteps in a book. In Anything for a Friend, my dissatisfaction with the ending wouldn’t keep me from recommending it.  

Thanks to Kaye Publicity for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Also by Kathleen M. Willett:

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