Dennis Lehane’s Since We Fell is the kind of book that I get really excited about. Marvelous characterization and a tense, surprising plot=a happy Jess. This book did not go where I thought it would, and after I finished the last sentence, I was left thinking about what had happened and wondering where the characters would end up next. I’m still thinking about it.
The book opens immediately following the moment that Rachel has “shot her husband dead.” Rachel reads the emotions on her husband’s face—his “anger,” his “outrage,” his “determination.” Then “He looked right at her as the most incomprehensible of emotions staked its claim and subsumed all others: Love.”
From the moment I finished reading this formidable prologue, I was racing with questions. Starting with, of course, why Rachel shot her husband. Why and how they ended up there. If she loved him too. If I would remain invested in a story when I knew so much about the characters’ fate from the first pages. The answer to the last question was a resounding and enthusiastic YES!
Immediately following the prologue, Lehane’s narrator moves into an exploration of Rachel’s childhood, as the daughter of an impressive and yet hard to love therapist. In contrast to the opening pages of the novel, these next pages take on a John Irving-esque storytelling quality. While that might sound like some kind of narrative let-down—coming as it does immediately after Rachel has shot her husband—it wasn’t at all. Instead, Lehane offers a lovely treatment of a domestic drama—a drama that we see will have profound implications on Rachel’s life and which might help to explain how exactly she ended up shooting her husband.
After Rachel’s mother dies, she hires a man named Brian to find out who her father, James, is. This private investigator, Brian, becomes a steady presence in her life, even if from afar. He helps her find James. He emails her sporadically to compliment her journalism. He is nearly one of the only people in her life who encourages her after she experiences an on-air melt-down. And when Rachel becomes agoraphobic—her world shrinking down to the safe walls of her apartment—it’s Brian who is patiently there for her.
But Brian has secrets, and job or no job, Rachel is still an investigative journalist. Who is this man she married? Who has been the one person who has supported her unceasingly and patiently, but who has, undeniably, lied to Rachel? The pacing of the plot winds up again, inexorably taking us to that moment in the prologue—that moment that I forgot about for much of the book because Dennis Lehane is a wizard who made me forget that that explosive moment was coming.
Since We Fell is an inventive, nuanced love story unlike any that I’ve ever read before.
I received a complimentary subscription to Book of the Month for a month, and I selected Since We Fell. All opinions included in this review are my own. Book of the Month is a monthly subscription service which offers a curated list of hardback books, all selected by fantastic judges. You can select one book per month, or you can skip that month, if you'd like (you can also add an extra book for a fee). Shipping is free. Book of the Month is running a promotion this month: Sign up for a 3-month membership for $10 per month.
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