Something to mull over...

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

No such thing as "No strings attached" - White Lies by Susan Barrett

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

This is my first time to read a Susan Barrett book, but I enjoy psychological thrillers and dramas, so I accepted the review request.  It is a relatively short book as far as number of words.  However, the acceleration of emotional tension is immediate, and it turned out to be an intense and fully immersive reading experience, that it really did not feel like a short read.

The story revolves around a central complicated character – Beth.  She has had a hard, sad and depressing life, which she narrates via her thoughts, as she sits and waits as a guest at a wedding. She’s had two kids given up for adoption.  The circumstances of each adoption are individually heart-wrenching, so I do feel the depth of her emotions.  The wedding she is attending is that of her second child, Tess.  Beth had the chance to know Tess, so there is some level of relationship there.  However, as with all dark paths of life would have it, Beth has an ominous feeling that the groom-to-be, Michael, is actually her first child.  The thought of this possibility, and the convoluted mix of ugly relationships and events in her life, is what eats up Beth’s thoughts in anticipation of the actual wedding ceremony.  Should she speak up her fears and concerns?  What is the best thing to do in this situation?  

Beth’s life is just sad, and because of the way she recounted her past, I couldn’t help as a reader but be depressed.  I hated the abusers and co-dependents in her life.  I felt indignant about the disconnected parenting that she received.  Note that the story also expounded on the life and emotions of Liz, the adoptive mom of Tess, as well as the journey of Tess herself.  I “understood” their own life dramas and line of thinking, but I felt deeper for Beth.  The author, Barrett, is an excellent psychological writer.  She surely had a way of keeping me engaged with each character.

So basically, this story paints a fuller picture of the emotional intricacies of adoption.  I have an adopted brother, but he isn’t much of an emo kind of person.  However, this book makes me think outside of the obvious, and I wonder how much of his own knowledge of his adoption has affected his own life decisions.  I wonder how he really feels about everything and everyone involved.  I don’t necessarily want to go down the path of unearthing his deep-seated emotions, but should we cross that bridge, I hope I can navigate the interaction with compassion, empathy and a whole lot of sensitivity.

This is a life story, so there is no neat conclusion with every loose end tied up.  There is still a lot to think about.  Kudos to the author for creating a good, thought-provoking and book-club-material book.

My main takeaway:  Sometimes we feel like we can sweep things under the rug, accept and forget, and move on with life.  Sometimes we feel like partial versions of the truth are more considerate of people and situations, and that “all’s well and that ends well” is a good compromise.  However, truths about human relationships and interactions are never just one time events with a definite cut-off point.  “No strings attached” when it comes to relationships are never quite true.

This is definitely not airplane reading material.  This is good for a rainy day, when one just wants to soak in a bathtub of emotions.  You do get to “experience” the power of emotions, and your heart feels alive.  Passion and anger aren’t distant as you read this book.  It is not an easy read.  But the impact on me is more on gratefulness, and a resolve to be a connected parent to my kids.  

I personally will not recommend it to just anyone.  But I will recommend it to those that I know will grow from this reading experience, as I think I did.