• Riya


My Lovely Wife - Samantha Downing

The nuclear family dynamic in Hidden Oaks seems ordinary—even quintessential on the surface—but Millicent and her unnamed husband (the narrator) engage in an abominable undertaking in secret: murder. My Lovely Wife is Samantha Downing’s debut novel, a novel in which readers support the villain, discarding the fact that he is an accomplice to murder and instead focusing on his love for his children. The plot is dark and catastrophic, and the prose is straightforward. Readers know the same amount of information that the husband does, allowing readers to somewhat sympathize with him very easily. A psychological thriller, this novel is infused with unforeseen events, stark contrasts—such as the innocence of children versus the deception of their parents—and twists that were slightly predictable. The domestic suspense ingrained in the book is honestly addictive, pushing readers to finish all 386 pages within a few hours.

Readers are not exposed to the gore and repugnance of the homicide and serial-killer plot; however, in the latter half of the novel, they are exposed to deception, dysfunction, and death on a different level. Watching the story unravel and observing the two distinct sides of Millicent and her husband—amorous parents versus abhorrent murderers—is unsettling, to say the least, but comes together like a puzzle at the very end. The clear contrast between the first line of the novel and the last line is intriguing and conjures unanswerable queries—ones that readers most likely do not wish to know the answer to. Most readers’ main criticism is the lack of motivation: why does the unnamed husband want to kill, what does he procure from it, and why is he detached from an operation that was essentially his proposal? While readers wish they had additional insight into the serial killer’s mind, My Lovely Wife exceeded their expectations and will certainly exceed yours too.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven - Mitch Albom

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by author Mitch Albom is a phenomenal novel that probes the supposedly insignificant relationships and unforeseen bonds humans create. Eddie is an 83-year-old man who has witnessed the ineffable, experienced heart-breaking love and felt hostility at the highest degree. From the first page, Albom addresses intricate topics of fate and death through the butterfly effect, the notion that the change in one minuscule event will have large, unpredictable consequences. He obliterates the concept of fortuity and instead demonstrates that the simple act of playing a game of catch may unintentionally impact someone in a colossal way. Furthermore, Albom incorporates a plethora of juxtapositions beginning with the line, “But all endings are also beginnings,” showing readers that Eddie’s life on Earth is merely a portion of his greater, whole life in Heaven. This book is brief and readers may complete it in one sitting; this quality contributes to both the good and bad aspects of it.

Albom’s style of writing is not for all. In some readers’ opinions, the book was too simple and bare, a good story enclosed in simplification and short sentences. However, for many, the short sentences lacking vocabulary accentuate the importance of the words and thoughts being conveyed. Moreover, he is very explicit and straightforward when characterizing Eddie’s mental processes and emotions. There is not much left for the reader to interpret, which is not a good fit for imaginative individuals. Despite these criticisms, readers were continuously eager to meet the five people Eddie impacts, even if they were slightly predictable, especially number 5 and parts of number 4. The Five People You Meet in Heaven remained on the New York Best Seller List for 95 weeks for a good reason: it is sentimental, complex, and profound from describing the war to the pier.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo- Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid is infused with real characters whom you feel tangible infatuation, contempt, and wrath towards. It describes the story of Evelyn Hugo, a 79-year-old actress who chose an “arbitrary” journalist to give one final interview to. Taylor Jenkins Reid painted an authentic realm, one with dynamic characters and one that lacks saintliness. Each character—from Evelyn herself to each of her seven husbands—is complex and obscure, but Evelyn’s accounts are painfully honest. Readers learn that personality extends far beyond the surface and that someone’s conduct is not a symbol of their childhood, their secrets, and their stories. As a bisexual Cuban woman finding herself during the Golden Age of Hollywood, Evelyn uses her elegance to disregard the racism and misogyny she encounters. In the first chapter, readers learn that Evelyn finally has no hindrances in telling her story, exposing her former significant others, and unmasking the supposedly remarkable film industry. Evelyn does not speak from the perspective of a wealthy, affluent actress, but of a human who has ugliness within her.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a juxtaposition within itself, as Hugo is confronted with exuberance and mortality, victory and defeat, and love and hatred concurrently. This is emphasized with the quote, “It’s always been fascinating to me how things can be simultaneously true and false, how people can be good and bad all in one, how someone can love you in a way that is beautifully selfless while serving themselves ruthlessly.” Adding onto Reid’s beautiful writing style, some readers admit that the character of Monique did not beguile them the way the complexity of Evelyn Hugo did; they found themselves skimming past her story, in the beginning, to get to the so-called “good part.” However, readers soon recognized their idiocy and noted Jenkin’s interconnectivity between even the most “insignificant” of characters. She is exceptionally thorough and her aptitude for portraying characters so humane brought readers to tears on a few occasions. Overall, this novel captures society in 400 pages. Moreover, it captures raw honesty, defiance, and secrecy.

Malibu Rising - Taylor Jenkins Reid

Those who enjoyed Jenkin Reid’s ability to engulf readers in a world of wealth and fame in The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo will appreciate Reid’s Malibu Rising, a book connected to Evelyn Hugo’s third husband Mick Riva. Malibu Rising is a gut-wrenching novel that transpires through one day—August 27th, 1983. It is an amalgamation of passion and hatred, marriage and divorce, and life and death told through flashbacks, present-day accounts, and reflections of the future. Unlike most stories centered around the theme of affluence, Malibu Rising has depth, as it is riddled with the loss of family members, the surrendering of childhood, and the experiences of four kids who find a home in the comfort of the ocean. It is not about being born into wealth but about the earning of it. The importance of family, blood-related or not, is displayed through the indestructible bonds prevalent between the four siblings—Nina, Jay, Hudson, Kit—during the hardships they endure throughout the novel.

The story begins with the mention of the California wildfires and ends with the cigarette that sparked the Malibu fire of 1983. Many readers criticize that the fire was merely an insignificant part of an event they envisioned to be much larger. However, Reid may have purposely done this to emphasize the fire as a symbol insignificant from an outsider’s perspective yet important in the characters’ lives. Furthermore, readers believe it was slightly difficult to keep up with the introduction of new characters who attend Nina’s end-of-year party, but it was nonetheless captivating to peer into their lives, learn their stories, and observe their interactions with the Riva siblings. The highlight of the story is watching Nina grow from a five-year-old who has a sturdy bond with her father to a twenty-five-year-old who maintains a selfless demeanor. Overall, Reid pushes readers to hurriedly read the pages and keeps them yearning to know more.

The Woman in the Window - A.J Finn

The Woman in the Window, written by A.J Finn, is simply captivating. Even the mundane feeling and normality of the beginning portion of the book is intriguing because of Finn's phenomenal writing style. However, it was upsetting how the first half was slow-paced and the latter half of the book too fast; the “action” could have been better distributed and most of the descriptors in the first pages were largely unnecessary. Additionally, the book was based on an unreasonable premise: a young woman who has endured an abundance of trauma and is an agoraphobic alcoholic living alone is illogical. However, the dark nature of the novel had readers skeptical about each character introduced to the plot, from Anna Fox herself to the online forum she uses to contact people, despite her agoraphobia. Many readers found it nearly impossible to differentiate between Anna’s vivid, disturbing imagination and her reality. The depth of the twists integrated into the plot makes the novel that much more riveting.

Future readers will enjoy how Finn uses Anna’s passion for old black-and-white movies by integrating into the background quotes that align with the events in Anna’s life. This is important for readers, as the quotes suggest that Anna was attempting to re-enact her old thrillers when, in actuality, it was an uncanny coincidence. Finn develops her characters meticulously. For instance, Fox’s inability to regulate her alcohol intake, take her medications, and respect and trust herself makes her greatly unlikeable. Moreover, Ethan’s blend of mature and juvenile behavior, story-telling ruse, and adolescent lure make him a complex, unbreakable character that readers immediately admire. Those who are intrigued by murder mysteries but are willing to endure the long climb to the climax will appreciate Finn’s writing. Hopefully, the movie released in May 2021 is not an injustice to this beautifully written, mesmerizing novel.