“Impossible to put down,
even harder to let go of.”
__Julie Buxbaum, author of
The Opposite of Love,
In her first two books — Real Life & Liars and The Life You’ve Imagined –, Kristina Riggle wrote about ordinary individuals caught up in the dilemma of how to resolve complicated problems in their lives. However the author twists the scenario a bit in Things We Didn’t Say available for purchase tomorrow at your local bookstore and online retailer.
Kristina’s third novel is breathlessly insightful and emotionally charged — a book one lives, rather than reads. Its intimacy and immediacy pulls the reader into a family crisis that escalates to a shattering breaking point all within the time frame of forty-eight hours. Believable? It could not be more honest.
First, however, is the twist that the main female character has already decided what to do about a problem. She’s packed and ready to run away from the family she hoped to belong to when a sudden, frightening event causes her to stay….a while longer. Ah, but what then?
Here is the synopsis for Things We Didn’t Say:
What goes unsaid can sometimes speak the loudest . . .
What makes up a family? For Casey it’s sharing a house with her fiancÉ, Michael, and his three children, whom she intends to nurture more than she ever took care of herself. But Casey’s plans have come undone. Michael’s silences have grown unfathomable and deep. His daughter Angel seethes as only a teenage girl can, while the wide-eyed youngest, Jewel, quietly takes it all in.
Then Michael’s son, Dylan, runs off, and the kids’ mother, a woman never afraid to say what she thinks, noisily barges into the home. That’s when Casey decides that the silences can no longer continue. She must begin speaking the words no one else can say. She’ll have to dig up secrets—including her own—uncovering the hurts, and begin the healing that is long overdue. And it all starts with just a few tentative words. . . .
While that is the storyline, Kristina describes the novel as “…a messy, grown-up love story because real love must be able to endure through the worst, most confusing and difficult times. Sometimes love alone isn’t enough to sustain a couple, when the storm comes, as it always will.”
It will, it does and, without being able to speak up in common agreement, divorce usually follows. When children are involved, post-divorce couples/parents remain bound together creating (hopefully) a polite, healthy relationship. However when Michael and Mallory — the novel’s other two adult characters — are that divorced couple/parents, one can only expect the unexpected.
This also makes the book a contemporary story of a blended family in which a young woman falls in love with a man and his three children. Bearing her own unspoken, emotional scars, she is seeking to love and belong. And he is willing to try to recapture the fun and sense of true love. It’s not surprising that Kristina says:
“I’m in awe of the optimism and determination of those who create blended families. By their very nature, these couples walk into a their new relationship bearing scars of the past, moreso than those who have never been married before, and I find their willingness to give it another try inspiring. I also wanted to write about a competent single dad who has primary custody of his kids, because it goes against the grain of the pop-culture stereotype of the distant or bumbling divorced dad.”
With such good intentions, how could Casey and Michael’s relationship not at least lead to a wedding, instead of an about-to-be runaway bride? Well there are three children — two of whom are teenagers — and ex-wife Mallory to add to the mix.
TRUTH: This author raises the dramatic tension almost as high as possible with the introduction of Mallory, yet there is not one false step in her portrayal of who she calls “the first true antagonist I’ve tackled.”
She is real and, more likely than not, everyone will recognize a Mallory in their life. Nevertheless Kristina admits:
“I did my utmost not to turn her into a caricature of pure villainy. She is damaged, but I would not say she’s evil. It’s an interesting question that Michael wrestles with throughout their marriage, how much control she has over her own actions, and thus how much personal responsibility she bears. I also found the failed marriage between Mallory and Michael to have a life of its own as well, and it was a challenge to portray that relationship in a way that was understandable and relatable. Sometimes the story of a marriage isn’t easily understood, especially by those from the outside looking in, and I hoped to give the readers some insight into that story.”
Such is a prime example of Kristina Writing in Shades of Gray with complex characters behaving badly. Because, as a writer, she could not feel protective of Michael, Casey, Mallory, and the children. If she did, nothing bad would ever happen to them and a very boring story would be told. Instead the author took on the difficult task in making sure each character developed with his/her own story in order to become necessary and not just a stereotype in the general plot.
TRUST: Julie Buxbaum’s quote on the book’s front cover tells all you need to know about Things We Didn’t Say. And then there are my words for the author: Brava, Kristina, Brava!
Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Things We Didn’t Say by Kristina Riggle in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be notified by email as well as announced Thursday on my Facebook page.