Thursday, December 14, 2023

In a Quiet Town

In a Quiet Town
  In a Quiet Town
Author:  Amber Garza
Publication Information:  MIRA. 2023. 336 pages.
ISBN:  0778334252 / 978-0778334255

Rating:   ★★

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

Opening Sentence:  "His hands were in her hair, fingers threaded through the silky strands."

Favorite Quote:  "I had to face up to the fact that no one was going to rescue me. I'd have to do it myself."

***** BLOG TOUR *****


Amber Garza's book Where I Left Her was about a mother and daughter and an estranged relationship. It was about a mother's frantic search when her daughter goes missing. The book pulled together a lot of disturbing elements - an unreliable narrator with secrets in her past, an ex-husband who has doubts about his ex-wife's past, a boyfriend with secrets of his own, teenage girls possibly engaging with older men online, a new girl on the scene, and shifting teenage friendships and sexual exploration.

This book is similar. Tatum has been secretly reestablishing her relationship with her adult daughter. Her husband, who is the pastor in this small town, is suspicious of her and disapproving of his daughter. Tatum is an unreliable narrator as she suffer from a debilitating illness that defies definition and is deemed by many to be all in her head. There is a "fiancé" who has secrets of his own. There is a boyfriend. There is the local police. There is Adrienne, the young woman herself.

Given the small cast of characters, the mystery of this book is not difficult to solve. The changing narrators - the Mother, the Daughter, the Fiancé - and different perspectives indicate that there may perhaps be more but there is not. The titles of chapters, I suppose, is meant to add mystery. For me, it really does not. The shifting timelines and the narrators means that not enough seems to actually happen in the book. The actual storyline does not cover any length of time or much progression of events.

The book - even a mystery - does not have to be plot driven. Psychological thrillers can often be character driven as characters evolve and are revealed through the story. Because of the changing narrators, it seems that the characters do not really develop or evolve through this book. In addition, most if not all the male characters - including the father who is a pastor - of this book appear villainous in their own way. Some balance in the presentation would perhaps resonate more. The toxic depiction of the men is too one-sided. At the same time, the two main female characters - Tatum and Adrienne - are for the most past shown as subservient and "doormat" worthy. Despite many red flags, Adrienne engages and stays in an unhealthy relationship. Despite feeling unloved and unsupported, Tatum stays in a marriage for 30 years. Perhaps, strength appears to emerge through this story but not enough and not soon enough.

Sadly, I do not connect with any of the characters, and this thriller does not engage me the way I expected it would.

About the Book

In this chilling new novel, a pastor’s wife discovers that her estranged daughter is missing, but no one will believe her, until she meets a man claiming to be her daughter’s fiancé.

The book is about Tatum, a woman who secretly reconnects with her estranged adult daughter—secretly because Adrienne’s been all but disowned by Tatum’s husband, a pastor at the church in their small California town, where every move is watched and reported by his congregation. When Adrienne doesn’t show up for her shift at the bar where Tatum’s been visiting her, she knows something is wrong. Adrienne may have been a bit of wild child, but she hasn’t missed a day of work without calling in for years.

Tatum tries desperately to get the police or her husband to take her daughter’s disappearance seriously, until a mysterious man shows up claiming to be Adrienne’s fiancé. It’s a relief to finally have someone who believes her and is trying as hard as she is to find out where Adrienne is. But can she trust that this stranger is really who he says he is? And can she find her daughter before it’s too late?

About the Author

Amber Garza has had a passion for the written word since she was a child making books out of notebook paper and staples. Her hobbies include reading and singing. Coffee and wine are her drinks of choice (not necessarily in that order). She writes while blaring music, and talks about her characters like they're real people. She lives with her husband and two kids in Folsom, California.


Excerpted from In A Quiet Town by Amber Garza, Copyright © 2023 by Amber Garza. Published by MIRA Books.

His hands were in her hair, fingers threaded through the silky strands. I knew what it felt like. My fingers had been buried in her hair many times, including last night. When their lips met I sat up straighter, leaning forward. It didn’t feel real. I worked my jaw. It popped and clicked. My own mouth buzzed with the memory of how her lips felt on mine.

The kiss was long. Too long.

She liked it.

My shoulder muscles pulled tight, a rubber band being stretched beyond its limits. I thought they might snap.

The two of them drew back. She smiled. Smiled with the same lips that had smiled at me. Kissed me. Told me they loved me. Clearly, a lie.

She brushed back her hair, and the diamond on her finger sparkled.

Her ring. The one I’d given her. She was wearing it.

It felt like a punch to the gut. Like a big “fuck you” to me.

It wasn’t like she knew I’d followed her. But still… Shouldn’t she take her engagement ring off before she hooked up with another dude?

Throwing her head back, her neck exposed, she giggled.

Imagining my hands wrapping around that tender flesh, I squeezed the steering wheel. It gave under the pressure, and I squeezed harder. It felt good. Therapeutic. I pictured her terrified. Pleading. Mouth tight, eyes bulging. I squeezed and squeezed, my teeth grinding, the vein in my forehead throbbing. My muscles ached by the time I released my grip.

Their hands clasped. My breathing was labored as I watched them walk off together, around the side of the building, out of sight.

I’d loved her. Given her so much.

How dare she?

No one made a fool out of me.

She wouldn’t get away with this. Not by a long shot.

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