Thursday, July 23, 2015


Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm (2015)

When the story opens, Grace is in Paris working at a job restoring antiques. It is clear that she has run away from something. As her story slowly unfolds we learn that two guys from her hometown with whom she was close are being released from prison. Her involvement in the crime (and with the two men) is revealed over the course of the novel which moves back and forth in time between Paris and Grace's hometown of Garland, Tennessee.

This book is difficult to describe in a way that does it justice. It's not a crime novel, though there is a crime at the center of the story. Much of it is about lies and thievery, but it's also about the way that Grace built her early life and found a family that was better than her real one, and then how she destroyed those relationships that she built. It was kind of a slow burn, but didn't drag. I really enjoyed reading all of it and kept trying to find spare moments to pick it up again.

I loved the details of Grace's job in the antique shop. She helped her coworker Hanna (who was a pretty interesting character herself) restore an ornate centerpiece with tiny sheep and acorns and peaches and other little bits that needed to be restored and, in some cases, remade. It is incredibly meticulous work, and the project reminds me a little of the way Grace has manipulated the people and events around her and remade her life into something different.

The title and cover are pretty underwhelming and I never would have picked this book up if it wasn't chosen for my book group. In fact, I actually received a galley of it from Penguin and gave it away without reading it. But I'm so glad my friend picked it for book group! It really got under my skin in a way that reminded me a bit of The Woman Upstairsa book that stuck with me more than I originally predicted. (But if you didn't like that book, don't let it turn you off from this one - it really is different.) Unbecoming was vividly atmospheric and vaguely ominous. It's a book I won't soon forget.

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