Saturday, October 28, 2023

The Family Plot

  The Family Plot
Author:  Megan Collins
Publication Information:  Atria Books. 2021. 320 pages.
ISBN:  1982163844 / 978-1982163846

Rating:  ★

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "My parents named me Dahlia, after the Black Dahlia - that actress whose body was cleaved in half, left in grass as sharp as scalpels, a permanent smile sliced onto her face - and when I first learned her story at four years old, I assumed a knife would one day carve me up."

Favorite Quote:  "So I've had to let a lot of things go. It's hard to hold grudges against someone who can't remember what they did to earn them."

The setting of this book is an atmospheric island and a decrepit mansion. The construct of this book is a potentially engaging one - a dysfunctional family gathering for a funeral. Old secrets are bound to come out, and relationships are bound to be tested.The premise of this book is a fascinating one - a family obsessed with true crime. 

The book itself, however, goes in a direction I do not expect for several reasons.

The mystery of the book unfortunately, for me, is not a mystery for long. I guess a major part of the conclusion pretty early on. To me, the clue dropped is a huge one and hard to miss. 

The family's obsession with true crime is to an extreme as to be far-fetched, unbelievable, and somewhat comical. The siblings are all named for victims of murder. The siblings were all home schooled, with murder being used as the theme for lessons. The mother re-enacts in painful detail crime scenes as school lessons. Essay prompts involved offer their solutions to an unsolved crime. The family lives on an island famous for its serial killer. The children are not allowed any outside friends.

The pacing of the book is uneven. The details of the mystery and the setup of the family are explained in the first chapter or two. Then, it is repeated in various forms over and over again through the first two-thirds of the book. Nothing much happens, making it challenging to stay engaged.

Because the story is one of adults coming back to their childhood, much of the story is "told" as opposed to the story unfolding. Perhaps, a dual timeline with the childhood leading up to Andy's disappearance and the present day mystery of Andy's disappearance may have provided a more intriguing approach. The premise of the book is based entirely on the childhood of these siblings. Yet, the story shows that childhood only through the eyes of the adults reflecting back. As a reader, I want to see the child.

The book essentially deals with an abusive childhood and the far reaching impact of that abuse on the adults these children become. Yet, that topic is not directly addressed in the book. The why of it is not addressed. The question of what other adults may have seen, heard, and possibly done to protect these children. I understand that this is written more as a mystery/thriller, but addressing that topic could have potentially added to the book and left a lasting impression.

Sadly, despite the intriguing premise, this was not the book for me.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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