You don’t get to choose your family.
She thought she’d never go back home.
But there’s something in her sister’s voice she just can’t refuse.
And hasn’t it always been that way?
What her sister asks, she does . . .
When Irini gets a call from her sister Elle in the early hours of the morning to tell her their mother is dead, Irini isn’t sure what to do or how to respond. It’s not like she knows her mother…she hasn’t seen or spent time with her since she was three year old and she’s now in her mid-30s.
She hasn’t spent much time with her sister either. When they were little, they were separated. Irini went to live with an aunt. Elle stayed with their parents. Why was never clear and, now, for Irini, it seems it might be getting too late to ask. Spurred on by her boyfriend, she decides to attend the funeral, visiting her childhood home in Scotland at the same time to try and uncover the truth.
So far, so good in the interesting plot stakes. This was a book I liked the sound of for just that and which hooked me in pretty quickly. Unfortunately, it didn’t hold my attention as the story continued. In part, it was the characters. I really didn’t like Irini or Elle. I found Irini confusing. She said one thing, did another. I get that this was supposed to be because she was under Elle’s thrall but I couldn’t see what that was myself.
Irini talks about how charming her sister is but I never saw it. I saw a woman with issues, who was demanding and controlling and who gets her way because people are scared of her. I also saw a damaged woman that nobody had ever seemingly taken the time to help. This is a hard one for me because a bit part of the plot twists here were based on Elle being mentally ill.
I know I read a lot of novels where there is a character that could be described as a psychopath or a sociopath but when a characters behaviour is down to what is basically stated is a mental health condition I start to feel uncomfortable. I work in the mental health field and this just has stigma written all over it. I have to say, I don’t think this is Michelle Adam’s intention I think it was just poorly thought out from that perspective.
Perhaps if it had been handled in a different way I would have felt more comfortable reading as the book went on but I just didn’t. I also didn’t quite get some of the plot twists. Was Elle evil with a master plot or a disturbed young woman? And was their a plot at all against Irini? At times it felt there was, at others not, and in the end I was left confused and slightly disappointed in the outcome.
For me, the book needed to go all out and didn’t. That said, this is a debut so maybe I shouldn’t be as harsh. It wasn’t all bad, with a good first third before I started to flag and at times I could see a flash of what could be something great. I don’t know enough about editing to say whether that was at play here but in my head this could have been tightened up and potentially shone.
All in all, then, I liked it, just not a lot – though from the reviews on goodreads I am in the minority here so don’t let me put you off (you can read the first chapter free on Amazon here if you wanted to see what you think).