Title: Too Close to Home by Susan Lewis
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 417 pages
Book Rating: C
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
For readers of Jodi Picoult, Heather Gudenkauf, and Elizabeth Flock comes a riveting and timely novel that delves into a modern family’s harrowing encounter with the complex world of cyberbullying.
Jenna Moore finally feels that she and her family are exactly where they should be. Leaving busy London behind, they’ve moved to the beautiful, serene Welsh coast. There Jenna, her husband, Jack, and the couple’s four children have found a little slice of heaven. In the house of their dreams, Jenna and Jack are ramping up for the launch of their new publishing business, and the kids are happier than they’ve ever been, wandering the wild, grassy moors that meet white sand beaches and wide ocean.
But a fissure cracks open. The once open and honest Jack suddenly seems to be keeping secrets, spinning intricate lies. And fifteen-year-old Paige has become withdrawn, isolating herself from her family and her new friends. Frightened of the darkness enveloping her family, Jenna struggles to hold her loved ones together. But a cruel disturbance has insinuated itself into her home, threatening to take away everything she holds dear.
Too Close to Home by Susan Lewis is a rather grim novel about a family who slowly begins to unravel. Difficult subject matter is deftly handled but the pacing is slow and the message is sometimes lost in the tedious details of day to day life.
Jenna Moore is a happily married mother of four. Despite the loss of her husband Jack’s job the year prior, they and their children have settled into a rather idyllic life in Wales following their move from London. Just as she and Jack are on the verge of launching their internet publishing company, she is struggling with writer’s block as the deadline for her next novel approaches. While Jenna could not be more thrilled with how well their life is going, slowly, but surely, cracks begin to appear in her marriage and as her once happy union begins to fall apart, so does the rest of her family.
Initially, Jenna is a likable character who is, without a doubt, an involved and caring mother. She is a little naive and trusting and since she is the creative side of their upcoming publishing company, she never thinks to question Jack’s business decisions despite a few anomalies that come to her attention. Even when faced with Jack’s increasingly secretive behavior and inconsistent explanations, Jenna remains woefully blind to what should be glaringly obvious to her. But when the full truth comes out about Jack and their business, Jenna’s over the top and outrageous behavior puts her in the completely unsympathetic category. While her anger and hurt is understandable, her inability to put her children first makes it impossible to feel sorry for her. But what is completely beyond comprehension is Jenna’s inability to see how terribly wrong things are with her oldest daughter.
At the beginning of the novel, fifteen year old Paige has everything going for her. Although she does not have a huge circle of friends, she is well-liked and popular. She is doing well in school and she is very excited about a few upcoming projects she is involved in. But the tide begins to turn for Paige after her Facebook account is hacked and a stranger befriends her online. Her situation deteriorates quickly and despite her best friend’s attempts to convince her to tell someone what is going on, Paige keeps quiet in hopes that things will improve on their own. The escalation of what is happening to her coincides with her family’s problems and Paige’s trust in the wrong person leads her down a very dark path.
While the different story arcs are interesting, the novel moves at a snail’s pace. The first half of novel is filled with superfluous details of the family’s day to day life and it is not until about the halfway point that anything noteworthy occurs. The next several chapters are sometimes cringe worthy as Jenna makes one bad decision after another regarding Jack. Paige’s situation rapidly deteriorates as her situation worsens and she continues making misguided choices. The last quarter of the novel moves at a breakneck speed once Jenna finally discovers what has been happening with Paige.
Despite its flaws, Too Close to Home is well worth reading. Paige’s storyline is sadly true to life and her reactions to the situation ring true. Although Jenna’s portion of the novel is a little hard to relate to, her circumstances are also dishearteningly realistic. Life is not always sunshine and roses and I commend Susan Lewis for tackling such difficult (yet topical) topics in her latest release.