Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Misery Loves Company: Review

A police-procedural, an undercover investigation, and questions about what it means to be a writer...

My newest read, Rene Gutteridge's Misery Loves Company mixes up all three.

As the story starts, Lt. Colonel Jim Franklin is worried about his daughtershe needs to get out more, write more, see more people. In fact, he's the only person Jules sees, and that's only in the morning, before he starts drinking.

Jules (Juliet) Belleno doesn't want to see people, or do anything at all that would change her dull, careful routine. Always shy, she's been a recluse since her husband Jason was killed during an investigation. She does writeon her blog, and on Face Bookbut she can't convince her dad she's happy with the way her life is.

Then, after reviewing her favorite author's latest novel, Jules meets that authorand wakes up to a nightmare.

And when Jason's former partner Chris Downey tries to find Jules, he meets resistance from his own chief and the police department's rules. He dodges the rules, but in the process, he finds another mystery, one he's never even guessed at.

Misery Loves Company is my first encounter with Gutteridge's books, and I enjoyed the experience. At the same time, it's a hard book to categorize. It's a Christian suspense novel, but neither Jules nor Chris is a Christian. It's also a story with strong emotions, although the resolution feels a little too easy, like the happy endings Jules is warned against. Half the story follows a relatively clean, though convoluted, missing-person search, while the other half turns into a bizarre writer's retreat as Jules tries to understand what it means to write, to have inspiration, to find meaning. Her only chance of safety seems to be answering the hard questions that never get any answers.

For me, the first half of the story read very smoothly. It's not an action story (at least until the very end). Most of Chris's investigation leads to interviews and sorting through old papers, but even when he's most frustrated with the search, the story carries well.

The challenge comes in the second half of the plotlike Jules, I couldn't always see where that storyline was headed. I did find it interesting, especially as an analysis of the writer's struggles, but then I am a writer. I'm guessing that other readers might skim these sections, or read them for the emotional conflict, rather than the writing atmosphere.

So, Misery Loves Company is a good read, and if you like metafiction about writing in your books, I'd definitely recommend it. Just be ready for a heavythough not exactly saggingmiddle.

And I'm curious—what do you think of novels about writing?

[My thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for sending me a review copy of Misery Loves Company, in exchange for my honest opinion of the book.]


Amy Lewis said...

I'm guessing that many people who love to read are curious about what it takes to write. But maybe I'm too much a writer, too...one who doesn't write much, except comments on blogs! : )

Audrey said...

That’s a good point, Amy—you remind me of a memoire my mom liked because it helped her understand my thinking as a writer. For me, on the other hand, the book felt almost like old news… “Heard that; done that" …except, of course, that it can still be fun to read about other writers' challenges!

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