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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Never Knowing: A Novel

I have enjoyed some of Chevy Stevens' earlier novels, and I picked this one up way back in the spring when I was in Ocean City for a bachelorette weekend at a lovely used bookstore next to our condo. I dug into Never Knowing on the train this past month.

Sarah has spent her whole life wondering who her birth parents are. She had a perfectly loving family, but her father was hard on her and she always get like an outcast among her younger siblings. Before her wedding, she decides to do some digging and finds her birth mother. However, her birth mother doesn't want to see her. After hiring a private investigator to suds out the situation, Sarah discovers that her father is none other than Canada's most notorious serial killer, and her mother was the only victim of his to get away. Sarah knows that as long as the information doesn't get out, she will be safe. Then the information got out...

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book and I thought it was a fascinating premise. It was outlandish enough to grab my interest and keep me turning the pages, while still being real enough that the true crime officianado in me could enjoy the juicy, salacious crime details. I love that Stevens incorporated a few known details about serial killers, and she made hers real enough that I wanted to keep knowing more.  I hated the misogyny that was inherent in this novel -- Sarah's "wonderful" fiancĂ© often calls her crazy or overdramatize or tells her that she needs to calm down, to which Sarah always defers and then self-deprecates in a disturbing way -- and it was in both the men in Sarah's life (see previous sentence about fiancĂ©, and her father was annoying too) and Sarah herself, who never really stuck up for herself or grew a backbone. Unfortunately, this overshadowed the interesting parts of the story for me. 

There were a couple of other things that irked me about this book as well. The first is that the story is told in the same format as Stevens' first book, which is in chapters dilineated by therapy sessions. I thought it worked great for the first storyline, but this one not so much. It felt forced when it came up in the story, and I felt that the arc would have been much better served if Sarah was just the narrator and told the damned story. The other thing that bothered me was the ending. There is a big dramatic scene that is the climax of the story's action, then there is a bitty baby climax in the denouement that takes an already implausible story and just makes the whole thing absurd. It was wholly unnecessary and left a bad taste in my mouth. I liked the far-fetchedness of the serial killer storyline, and I wished she had just stuck with that. However, I do realz or this was her sophomore novel, so she was still finding her formula. 

I now feel that my issues with the characters counteract how I feel about the story. That being said, I'm still going to keep reading Stevens' books because I love a juicy story. 

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