Review: Black-Eyed Susans

Black-Eyed Susans
Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book #53 for 2016
Book Riot Read Harder Challenge Task: A book recommended by someone you just met.

This is a book that had a lot of ambition and a lot of interesting things going for it. And it almost delivered on its promises. I feel like it could have been an amazing novel with a little more editing. At the nit-picky end of things, there were some odd word choices, like “widow’s peak” for an architectural element. (I’m guessing she meant “widow’s walk.”) And there were things that were later explained away, so I can’t really call them plot holes, but the explanations felt like afterthoughts of the “oops, guess I’d better do something about that real quick” variety, not carefully crafted red herrings. I mean, really, the first coroner didn’t notice an extra femur?

But there was a lot that didn’t make sense in the structure of the story. So much was made of how unique Tessa’s childhood home was, but nothing ever really came of that. (Is that an anti-spoiler?) And I totally could have done without the whole physical relationship between Tessa and Bill. It felt forced, like maybe an editor demanded a sex scene, and I feel like it detracted from the story and even muddled the purpose of Tessa as a character. For the other stuff, I don’t want to give the ending away, but unrealistic details kept pulling me out of the story and there were too many threads left hanging with nothing but a dismissive shrug from the author.

I also think Heaberlin could have done so much more with the whole death penalty angle and made this a much meatier story. This was simply not anywhere near the book it could have been, so I am left with a feeling of regret. Still, I found the story and the characters engaging, so this is more like a 3.5-star book. I wouldn’t recommend this to everybody, but in some ways it reminds me of The Lovely Bones and What the Dead Know, so if either of those appeals to you, you might like this as well.

View all my reviews


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