Published by Ballantine on June 23rd 2020
I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
At age thirty, Rose is fierce and smart, both self-aware and singularly blind to her power over others. When she moves to New York, she is unexpectedly swallowed up by her past, reuniting with Lacie, the former best friend she betrayed in high school. Captivated once again by her old friend's strange charisma, Rose convinces Lacie to let her move in and the two, now roommates, fall into an intense, uneasy friendship.
While tutoring the offspring of Manhattan's wealthy elite, Rose works on a novel she keeps secret -- because it stars Lacie, and details the betrayal that almost turned deadly. But the difference between fiction and fact, past and present, begins to blur, and soon Rose finds herself increasingly drawn to Lacie's boyfriend, exerting a sexual power she barely understands she has, and playing a risky game that threatens to repeat the worst moments of her and Lacie's lives.
Kyle Mccarthy delivers a debut novel that is simply stunning. Her writing is exemplary; poetic, descriptive, and thought-provoking. Also, the story is very well-plotted. But, at about 20% in I almost gave up on it. I’m glad I persevered as the ending is sublime.
But, why did I contemplate giving up on it? Frankly, it’s a bit of an uncomfortable read. See, our lead character, Rose, is a genius. Maybe because of this, she’s always felt like an outsider, and this shapes her approach to people and life. Being in her head is at times troubling, and at times simply fascinating. That’s what makes it an addictive read.
Rose is obsessed with the past and the present, but mostly obsessed with her best friend from high school, Lacie, the one she drove away. There is definitely a “single, White, Female” vibe to it, minus the knives. Nearly a dozen years after high school, after the fall-out in their junior year, Rose manages to insinuate herself into Lacie’s life. This is eerie because Rose is writing her debut novel, and Lacie is her main character. Rose recognizes the twist of fate, but her drive to succeed at the delivery of her novel overrules logic:
“Living with Lacie while writing about her had gone from deeply bizarre to completely normal in a remarkably short amount of time. After all, I wasn’t writing about the real Lacie, but the cipher in my mind. It seemed simple enough to hold them apart, though every so often I plucked a detail from her life. No harm in that. But now Portia wanted me to get into her head”
But getting in Lacie’s head is harder then she thinks. She reflects that “Lacie had always worked by implication and discretion, high-stakes negotiations conveyed through metaphor.” It’s a block and Rose feels nothing of her way around that. At times she’s very judgemental of others, but she fails to see her actions as anything but okay. And her feelings about Lacie are beyond complicated and evolving. There’s a new element to it, or is it? New that is. Her feelings, her actions, are always just a measure or two emotionally removed, as though she’s a voyeur of her own life.
Rose is such a contradiction – she’s disconnected but with her IQ, highly contemplative. This is HER a study in character, in the human psyche, and how Rose shows love. The book is rightly categorized as “Friendship Fiction” and “Psychological Fiction” and also evoking the “The Talented Mr. Ripley” (a personal favorite). If any of those appeals to you, do not give up on this book.
5 Stars and recommendation!
~Review by Cyndi
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