Thursday, January 19, 2012

Never Knowing - Chevy Stevens (Audio)

There has been buzz about Chevy Stevens ever since her debut novel, "Still Missing" was first published.  Deemed a taught and mental thriller, all the reviews I ever read said it was near impossible to put down.  Shame on me for allowing not one but TWO copies sit on my shelves unread.  


I was pretty happy when Stevens' second novel, "Never Knowing", was selected for Heathrow Literary Society's January read.  The member who nominated the book said she read both books in two days.  A very high recommendation indeed! Around the holidays, with all the chaos, this is just what I needed. 


Synopsis:  Sara Gallagher has always been curious about her birth parents.  With two siblings born naturally to her parents after her adoption, she has always felt left out, less loved.  As an adult, however, she has a daughter of her own, and is engaged to be married in just a few months to a man who deeply loves her.  Life is good.  


To get some closure before starting her new life, Sara decides to hire an investigator to find her birth mother.  When the research uncovers the fact that not only was her mother the sole survivor of a serial murderer, but that Sara was a product of rape from that incident, all hell breaks loose.  The serial murderer "John" is still out there, and soon learns he has a daughter.  He contacts Sara and tries to form a relationship with her.  This could be an opportunity for the police to finally catch the most wanted man in Canadian history, but things are a bit more complicated for Sara.  


She is worried she might have inherited her father's temper.  But she is strangely drawn to him.  But he is dangerous. And he could hurt her loved ones.  And what about that handsome police officer to whom she has grown close throughout the investigation?  Will her happy, normal life ever again be within her reach?


My thoughts:  Overall, I thought this was a decent thriller.  While there was some action, it was more heavily focused on the complicated, mental underpinnings of being stalked by a paternal serial murderer.  I suspect our book club will enjoy untangling all of the rat's nest of emotions addressed here...fear, betrayal, horror,   fascination, morbid curiosity, forbidden sexual attraction, the power of maternal instinct, courage...it's all in there.  


On the other hand, there were aspects of this story that drove me mad.  A great deal of time was spent immersed in the protagonist's inability to make a damned decision.  Will she help the police catch her father and defy her fiancé and family, or turn her back on her social responsibility?  She waffled at least four times.  In reality, yeah, I can understand this confusion.  But for purposes of plot, it did not inspire my investment in Sara, and grew old fast.  Two waffles would have been enough.  


I also thought there were some missed opportunities in the lack of development of the relationship between Sara and her birth mother.  It was a very large, loose thread.  In fact, there were loose threads everywhere you turned, the focus primarily resting on the father/daughter interaction.  What about her adoptive parents, her father's anger and her mother's illness, her dead ex-husband.  I'm sure this was by design, but it left me wanting.


A word about the audio production:  Nine out of ten times, an audio can make a good book better, but not in this case.  The narrator, Carrington MacDuffie, was not a new voice for me.  I'd listened to her in "The Little Giant of Aberdeen County" and thought she did a wonderful job.  In this case, however, her depiction of Sara did not help matters.  Her inflections were forced and insincere (the only comparison I can make is to Shirley Temple, which is cute in a little girl in the 1930's who dances and sings, but doesn't work in this case).  About two discs into the audiobook, I began the terrible process of trying to separate the words and plot from what I was hearing in my ears.  


3 out of 5 stars  


    

17 comments:

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I had a similar sort of reaction to her first book. There were parts I really liked, and parts I really didn't - enough so that I didn't go on to read any more by her. I guess what I didn't like was too much detail about this awful brutal sexual abuse. And the psychotherapist aspect, which apparently is in this book too?

Jim Thomson said...

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Jenny said...

I agree with your thoughts. I think what I liked with her books is the unique format, but in general while I like her books there are other aspects that could use improvement.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

I haven't heard of this one before, but since I know you've finished King's latest, I'm excited to hear your thoughts. I have the audio at home and I know you said you loved it.

Zibilee said...

I know I will be reading this at some point, and I also know I will be comparing it to the first. I know we talked a little bit about this, but I am uncomfortable with the use of the psychiatrist. It was ok in the first book, but now it feels like a crutch. I think you would have enjoyed the first book a lot more, but it is pretty horrifying. Very cool review today, and I agree, two waffles is plenty!

caite said...

loved the first book...this one not as much. decent about says it.

Belle Wong said...

I'm not big on waffling myself (for me, it's right up there with "had I but known") I've yet to read the first book - it sounds like the better one to start with!

Kathleen said...

I have Still Missing on my shelf at home so I think I will read that one and wait awhile for this one. You and I usually agree on what we think about a book!

Heather @ Book Addiction said...

I personally couldn't put this book down, but I have to admit that I liked Still Missing better. I agree with you about the loose threads all over the place, and about the waffling. But for whatever reason, I was immersed enough in the story that neither of those things bothered me too much. I am sorry the audio of this one didn't work! The audio of Still Missing was excellent (IMO) so maybe you'll have better luck there.

Jenners said...

I didn't think this was as strong as Still Missing and I agree with you about the waffling. And there were a lot of unexplored areas. Still, I took it for what it was … a crazy-ass thriller.

Too bad about the narration. I might have stopped and gone to print after that.

bermudaonion said...

I want to try Steven's work but after your review and some of the comments I think maybe I should try Still Missing first.

Anita said...

I have her first book on my shelf too. I hope to get to it this year, in my quest to read what I own. Please tell me how I keep buying more? LOL. Thanks for the review Sandy.

heidenkind said...

I agree--two waffles should be the upper limit of waffling. ;)

Darlene said...

I've got this book and am looking forward to it at some point. Too bad it doesn't live up to the first one though.

Julie P. said...

I haven't read either of the books but I think I'll definitely start with the new one.

christa @ mental foodie said...

This was just okay for me (also gave it 3 stars). Here's my review if you are interested: http://mentalfoodie.blogspot.com/2011/11/book-review-never-knowing-novel-by.html

Melissa said...

I think I'll be skipping this one...Still Missing was ok, but it didn't grab me like it did some others.