Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Fall of Lisa Bellow

The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo
Simon & Schuster: 3/14/17
eBook review copy; 352 pages
ISBN-13: 9781476761466

The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo is a highly recommended complex family drama about survivor's guilt.

Meredith Oliver is thirteen and in the eighth grade. She and her friends watch and discuss the popular mean girls at their school, including Lisa Bellows, whose locker is next to Meredith's. It is a struggle for anyone to get through the day when in middle school. Meredith's family is still recovering from the horrible accident her adored older brother had when playing baseball. Now he's essentially blind in one eye. All Meredith wants to do is get through this day in October and stop to get a root beer at the Deli Barn after school.

When Meredith gets to the Deli Barn, she sees that Lisa Bellows is already there, so she has to wait for Lisa to order her two sandwiches. Suddenly a masked gun man enters the sandwich shop. He orders both girls to get on the floor and robs the place. The two girls cower together on the floor, alternately giving each other support. Before the gun man leaves he tells Lisa to get up and come with him. Meredith remains on the floor, completely paralyzed with fear, until a customer comes in, a janitor at her school, and calls the police. Meredith is traumatized, trying to deal with witnessing the kidnapping, being the girl left behind, and processing all her feeling about the event.

The narrative has chapters alternating between two characters, following the thoughts and emotions of Meredith and Claire Oliver, her mother. While Meredith is trying to understand why she was the one left behind and find some answers, if only in her head. Claire is relieved her daughter was not taken, but struggles with confronting her inability to protect her children or even comfort them.

The Fall of Lisa Bellow is a very well-written book and  was compelling enough that, staying up a bit too late, I read it in one sitting. I simply had to find out what happened. Perabo manages to capture and realistically portray the inner voice and struggles of both a thirteen-year old girl and her mother. This is a feat in itself. Both Meredith and Claire are strong characters who are dealing with their unspeakable mental anguish in their own way.  They are also both well developed characters and strikingly realistic - neither of them are particularly likable. The depiction of Meredith struggling with survivor's guilt and trying to process what happened is especially effective.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

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