Title: The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: C
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss
The breakout novel from the critically acclaimed author of the short story collections Who I Was Supposed to Be and Why They Run the Way They Do—when a middle school girl is abducted in broad daylight, a fellow student and witness to the crime copes with the tragedy in an unforgettable way.
What happens to the girl left behind?
A masked man with a gun enters a sandwich shop in broad daylight, and Meredith Oliver suddenly finds herself ordered to the filthy floor, where she cowers face to face with her nemesis, Lisa Bellow, the most popular girl in her eighth grade class. The minutes tick inexorably by, and Meredith lurches between comforting the sobbing Lisa and imagining her own impending death. Then the man orders Lisa Bellow to stand and come with him, leaving Meredith the girl left behind.
After Lisa’s abduction, Meredith spends most days in her room. As the community stages vigils and searches, Claire, Meredith’s mother, is torn between relief that her daughter is alive, and helplessness over her inability to protect or even comfort her child. Her daughter is here, but not.
Like Everything I Never Told You and Room, The Fall of Lisa Bellow is edgy and original, a hair-raising exploration of the ripple effects of an unthinkable crime. It is a dark, beautifully rendered, and gripping novel about coping, about coming-of-age, and about forgiveness. It is also a beautiful illustration of how one family, broken by tragedy, finds healing.
The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo is a family drama that delves into the aftereffects of a traumatic event.
Meredith Oliver and Lisa Bellows are classmates but that is about all they have in common until a fateful day in a local deli. An armed gunman robs the deli then inexplicably kidnaps Lisa, leaving Meredith to try to understand why she was left behind and try to cope with the lingering trauma. This life-altering event also reverberates throughout the Oliver family and the rest of the community with very different reactions from many of people whose lives are touched by the tragedy. Lisa’s mom Colleen is lost and desperate for answers about her daughter. The incident seems to have an adverse effect on Meredith’s mom Claire, who grows increasingly dissatisfied with her life. Meredith’s older brother Evan finally snaps out of the depression that has plagued him since a baseball accident months earlier irrevocably changed his life. Meredith is understandably distraught about the events that transpired in the deli and she becomes obsessed with Lisa and what happened to her after the kidnapping.
Until that day in the deli, Meredith is a typical eighth grader who is fairly average in just about every way. After Lisa’s kidnapping, she gains a certain notoriety at school and quickly becomes part of Lisa’s circle of friends. Meredith is present in the physical sense, but emotionally, she is just sort of drifting away. She builds a rather elaborate fantasy about what is happening to Lisa and her imaginings soon take on a life of their own.
Meredith’s mother Claire is not a particularly likable or sympathetic character. She has sort of coasted into the life she has and her musings do not paint her in a flattering light at all. She is somewhat self-centered and rather unkind in her reflections about her husband, her chosen career and to some degree, her children.
On the other hand, Meredith’s brother Evan and her father Mark are kind-hearted and quite likable. Mark is unceasingly upbeat and cheerful and although he sometimes looks at life through rose-colored glasses, his heart is always in the right place. Evan has been through a difficult ordeal but he is finally finding his way back. Despite the four year age difference between them, the siblings are rather close and Evan makes a concerted effort to draw Meredith back into the family’s day to day life.
The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo is a character-driven novel that is somewhat slow paced and very introspective. The plot is certainly imaginative but a little disjointed with no clear resolutions to many of the story arcs. All in all, an interesting story that has very little suspense and leaves a lot of unanswered questions.