Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Book Review: THIS IS HOW I LIED by Heather Gudenkauf

This was my first time reading a novel by Heather Gudenkauf, and I was not disappointed. Scroll down for my complete review.

This is How I Lied
by Heather Gudenkauf
Publication Date: May 12, 2020
ISBN: 978-0778388111
Publisher: Park Row

Description from the Publisher:
Gudenkauf proves herself the master of the smart, suspenseful small-town thriller that gets right under your skin.” —Gilly Macmillan, New York Times bestselling author of The Nanny

Everyone has a secret they’ll do anything to hide…

Twenty-five years ago, the body of sixteen-year-old Eve Knox was found in the caves near her home in small-town Grotto, Iowa—discovered by her best friend, Maggie, and her sister, Nola. There were a handful of suspects, including her boyfriend, Nick, but without sufficient evidence the case ultimately went cold.

For decades Maggie was haunted by Eve’s death and that horrible night. Now a detective in Grotto, and seven months pregnant, she is thrust back into the past when a new piece of evidence surfaces and the case is reopened. As Maggie investigates and reexamines the clues, secrets about what really happened begin to emerge. But someone in town knows more than they’re letting on, and they’ll stop at nothing to keep the truth buried deep.

About the Author:
Heather Gudenkauf is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Weight of Silence and Not a Sound.  Heather lives in Iowa with her family.

My Review:

This is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf kept me guessing until the final pages!

What is a secret you've kept to yourself your entire life, hoping no one would ever find out about? Interesting concept to ponder. And while Gudenkauf does a terrific job exploring this facet of the small-town Grotto society, I would not call this story a thriller. It is definitely a well-told mystery, but not a thriller. A mystery is designed with the crime at the beginning of (or before) the story and the narrative question is: Who committed this crime? A suspense or thriller novel usually has an impending crime, and the narrative question is: How can this be averted? Nonetheless, while it was promoted as a thriller, Gudenkauf's mystery was well-written and captivating.

The slow reveal of information kept me intrigued and glued to the pages to find out who the real killer was, and the final reveal was justified.

Admittedly, at the start of the novel, I wasn't certain if I was going to like it, because I felt distanced from the fifteen-year-old character, Eve, and even had to check to see if this novel was written for the young adult audience or an adult audience. (It is written for an adult audience.) I assume Gudenkauf wrote the opening the way she did to avoid revealing the gender of the killer, but it was clunky and I almost stopped reading. Throughout the novel, anytime the story was from Eve's point-of-view, I had to work to stick with the story.

I'm glad I kept reading.

The rest of the book was fascinating. The different points of view, the non-linear timeline, and the multiple formats of storytelling (utilizing transcripts from therapy sessions) kept me engaged and curious to find out what was going to happen next.

I do wish there had been a content warning, because I usually choose to avoid any books involving childhood sexual abuse of any sort. Gudenkauf dealt with it at the surface level, never delving too deeply. So I was able to handle it, but consider yourself warned. There are topics of sexual assault, domestic violence, pedophilia ... in addition to the expected violence that accompanies any mystery or thriller. 

In This is How I Lied, Gudenkauf gives the reader a well-developed cast of characters, a twisty plot, and a satisfying ending!

I look forward to reading more books by Gudenkauf!

Some of my favorite lines from the story included:

"I'm used to toting around a sidearm, not an infant."

"Plastic garbage bags stuffed with random items filled corners, their black mouths gaping open as if vomiting mildewed clothing, board games, and VCR tapes."

"The orchard fills both sides of a lush valley and I love walking the rows of apple, fir, spruce and pine trees. Each row has its unique scent--sharp, sweet, woody. I've always imagined our children playing beneath the trees trying to catch the falling delicate pink-and-while apple blossoms that cling to their hair like confetti."

"If you don't understand how things die, how can you understand how they live?"

[I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influenced my opinion.]

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