Archive for February, 2017

The Passenger by Lisa Lutz

Book Review:  The Passenger by Lisa Lutz


After finding her husband’s dead body at the bottom of the stairs, Tanya considers disposing of it.  Quickly realizing that she lacks the physical strength to move him, she packs her bags.  It’s a suspicious way to die, after all, and she can’t have the police examining her too closely.

On the road, she focuses on putting distance between herself and her former life with Frank.  She drives through the night and a couple of states away, trades in Frank’s truck for a car, which she plans to replace fairly soon.  She’s already drawn as much cash as she can from her bank account and credit card, so she makes a call.  It’s not a call she wants to make, but, in order to start a new life, she needs a new identity and cash.  It’s a call that will ultimately change what she has to do to survive.

I read this book in one evening.  What happened in Tanya’s past to set her on this path?  She’s too emotionally detached to be likable, but as her story progresses, it’s apparent that she’s not a bad person (although she does bad things to survive).  It’s also apparent that she’s traumatized by something that happened years ago.  And that she longs for home and the girl she used to be.

The novel effectively alternates between her present, on the run, and glimpses into her past, via emails beginning in 2005.  I’ll admit, I wanted to yell at her a few times.  As much as she acted like she to knew how to run, she made enough mistakes to indicate that it wasn’t second nature to her.  Or, maybe to suggest that she was tired of running.

The suspense was well-written, as were the gradual reveals into Tanya’s past.  As Tanya runs out of options, the reader gets closer to discovering what happened all those years ago.  And, finally, everything falls into place.

A compelling psychological thriller.  Dare I hope that Lutz will explore Blue’s story, sometime in the future?



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How to Start a Fire by Lisa Lutz

how-to-start-a-fireBook Review:  How to Start a Fire by Lisa Lutz

College students Anna and Kate were matched as roommates, not through any carefully considered process, but because they both applied late, and everyone else was already paired up.  As luck would have it, they’re both sloppy insomniacs who hate pop music, so they get along well.  After a party one night, they find George passed out on a lawn, so they do the responsible thing — they wheel her to their dorm room in a shopping cart.  And a lifelong friendship begins.

One night, something happens that affects each of them differently.  It’s not something they talk about often.  Over the years, their lives will take them in different directions but they stay connected.   There will be rifts among them, from time to time, but they always come back together.

Apparently, I read this book when it first came out, which makes sense — Lisa Lutz is one of my Must Read Authors.  When I spotted it on the shelf, I thought I’d just missed it because 2015 was a chaotic year for me.  But then I began reading and the familiarity started setting in.  I didn’t remember how it turned out though, so I thought I must have started it and not finished it.  Nope.  I kept coming across passages that felt familiar, right up to the last page.  How did I not remember a book by Lisa Lutz???  And why didn’t I write a book review the first time?

The book jumps back and forth in time between 1989 and 2014.  The time hops provide some mystery, particularly about That Night.  And they set up several aha moments.  I found it jarring though, as well as artificial.  An aha moment should come because you, the reader, piece the clues together — not because information was withheld from you before and provided to you later.  I was interested in the characters’ journeys and it annoyed me to find out that something life-changing had happened but not know what until a flashback a few chapters later.  I’m guessing this is why the book didn’t stick with me despite the brilliant writing.  I never completely lost myself in the story because the next chapter would pick me up and place me somewhere else, with no reason why.

Individually, the chapters are exquisite.  Lutz immediately brings you into the story at that point in time and makes you feel comfortable there.  She excels at banter and there is plenty, particularly with Anna and Kate.


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