Not That I Could Tell. Jessica Strawser

4 stars for this modern-day cautionary tale.

I really enjoyed reading Not That I Could Tell, once I got past the first few chapters and started to sort out in my mind the cast of characters. Strawser explores how people may be very different from how they appear, sometimes in dangerous ways.

The story is set  in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and centres around neighbours Clara, Izzy, Kristin, Rhoda, Randi, Natalie and their families. After the women spend an evening drinking wine together, Kristin and her pre-school twins disappear. No-one seems to know whether this was Kristin’s decision or whether they were abducted – or worse. As the friends worry over what has happened, the reader realises alongside the characters that there can be considerable distance between appearance and reality, that perhaps these women don’t know one another as well as they had thought. Through Clara in particular Strawser demonstrates how gossip and meddling can serve the vital function of keeping women safe.

In some ways this novel is quite cosy in its depiction of suburban motherhood but the disappearance plot means the novel has an edginess that keeps the reader turning the pages. And I must credit Strawser for her fusion of these two elements – a middle-class environment; the possibility of danger – when she has one of her characters have this thought:

Briefly and ridiculously, she wondered how many people met their demise out of politeness. *

Yes! – women in particular and middle-class women most especially are conditioned not to ‘make a fuss’ and this hesitation as they assess whether they may be in danger could cause them to pay with their lives.

This is Jessica Strawser’s second novel. Her understanding of women’s lives and her approach to writing mean that I will be seeking out her debut, Almost Missed You.

I received this ebook free from NetGalley in return for an honest review. UK publication: 5 April 2018 by Hodder & Stoughton.

* Please note that this quote is taken from the ARC, and it may therefore be subject to change in the published novel.

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