The Reunion

End Date:  April 27th

Author:  Samantha Hayes

Published:  2018

Genre:  Mystery & Suspense

Pages:  383 (paperback)

Selected By:  Lady Esbe

Average Review:  Scoring It Was OK Book

Then – In charge of her little sister at the beach, Claire allowed Eleanor to walk to the shop alone to buy an ice cream.  Placing a coin into her hand, Claire told her to be quick, knowing how much she wanted the freedom.  Eleanor never came back.

Now – The time has finally come to sell the family farm, and Claire is organizing a reunion of her dearest friends, the same friends who were present the day her sister went missing. 

“When another girl disappears, long-buried secrets begin to surface.  One of the group hides the darkest secret of them all…”

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Gigglemug Reviews

Lady Esbe:  Scoring Liked Book

I’ll preface this that, again, I’m on the hunt for a great mystery novel.  This one did a pretty good job, but there was more that annoyed me than I appreciated about characters of the book that pushed me away from a higher score.  I will give kudos to the author for keeping me guessing until the end as to who the culprit was.  I’m not a Gone Girl genre of book fan and this was in that style of writing.

One of my biggest pet peeves about this novel is the sheer number of screwed up people in this book.  Per capita, it was a bit excessive.  Yes, all those in the novel were touched by tragedy in some form or another.  However, are we saying EVERY character is royally screwed up and they all know each other?  Come on, man.  I felt bad for the father, Patrick.  He’s afflicted with Alzheimer’s, has been mourning his missing daughter for the better part of twenty years and now his wife wants to sell his home from under him.  Of the lot of this book, he’s the one I felt the most for, but ultimately, my sympathy only goes so far.

I will say is that the men, certain men, in the book earn a bit more sympathy from me than the women, by far.  Jason earns the most sympathy from me.  He has his life together for the most part now.  But once upon a time he was a screwed-up kid, coping the best way he knew how from the devastating loss of his sister abduction.  He turned to heroine, recovered and is now just an out of work actor still trying to find his way in life, despite having a loving and devoted wife, he’s still trying to be the man he thinks his father would be proud of, despite their estrangement.  Of the screwed-up folks in this novel, he is the one by whom I’m least offended.

Coming in a close second is Nick.  Poor Nick has suffered some great losses in his life.  While his childhood sweetheart Claire faded from him life some time after the abduction of Eleanor/Lenni.

Nick moved on in life, got married and had a child.  Then things fell apart for him.  His circumstances are held out as mysterious to us and the author does a poor job of making this red herring seem like a viable answer to the mystery.  The pining over Claire, is so eye-rollingly stupid.  Granted, they seem like they should be together.

This leads me to Claire’s husband, Callum.  Oh, Callum, poor, disgusting Callum.  There is nothing about Callum that was appealing to me from the word go.  I couldn’t put my finger on what rubbed me wrong about him initially, but when he asks his wife to lie to the police about the reason Rain was in their bedroom.  Dude, seriously?  He’s picture perfect, but the type of perfection that makes a person question, what is really going on with the person.  By the end of the novel, you’ll be even more appalled by some of his actions.

As for the women (insert sigh), I’m very displeased by the number of female writers who cannot write a strong female character.  I expect there to be flaws, but I expect there to be one standout female character in a good way.  In this case, it would be Jason’s wife, Greta.  She’s a rock and she’s quietly strong, yet the voice of reason.  However, there is so little of her in the book, I was a bit disappointed.  She was refreshing.

Yet, we have a plethora of women that made me shake my head at the comedy of errors that are characters.  The main culprit is Claire.  Claire equals codependent and just ridiculous.  I was only mildly annoyed when she became upset by the potential of selling her childhood home.  Who wouldn’t be?  But the level of whine was almost unbearable.  She was like the blind wife who would never see the defects in her husband or the breakdowns in her family beyond her dad being ill and her brother being at odds with their father.  Overall, she drove me the most nuts because of her doe eyed view of the world and her infatuation with her former high school, sweetheart, Nick.  So, in love with your husband, huh?

Then there is, and let’s not mince words, her slut of a friend Maggie.  Mother of the year she is not.  Typical product of a screwed-up childhood, she’s a mess and why wouldn’t she be jealous of her dear friend Claire.  She admired the solid family that Claire appeared to have and even allowed herself to think of Claire’s dad as her own on occasion.  No harm, no foul until the jealousy seeps in ever so slightly, a little nicked knick-knack here, a little falsehood there.  She runs from relationship to relationship and well, that doesn’t bode well for her teenage daughter who already has identity issues, thanks to her dear old mum.  Maggie appears to be caught in a perpetual teenager angst.  What truly annoyed me about her is that she was either too blind to see her daughter was in trouble, or too much wanting to be a pal versus a mom that she does very little to ensure her daughter is cared for beyond financially.  Then gets offended when Rain’s father calls her on the carpet late in the novel. Eh, you made this bed, lady.

As for Rain.  Honestly, there were times I wanted her to be hit by a bus.  She is the typical a-hole teenager.  Angsty because she doesn’t belong.  A troublemaker because it makes her life less boring.  Obnoxious because she can be.  Her multitude of problems stems from not having a real mother figure in her life, as Maggie surely falls short.  Then the fact that she knows she can never truly be apart of her father’s life because, she just doesn’t fit in because of her origins.  There isn’t much she can do about it.  However, she could be a bit less flirty, a little less bratty and a lot more considerate of people she doesn’t know.  But oh yeah, millennial, never mind.

Of the women in the novel, Lenni is the only person I feel sorry for.  It is clear she has some sort of mental defect.  She’s too sweet, too trusting, and the fact that she never fought back, drove me nuts.  However, that should be a clue to the reader that it’s not just her mental state, but there is a good reason why she doesn’t.  However, her never ending hope, and her ability to persevere through all these years with still a bit of optimism in her, is spirit lifting in a way.  I hate the years were stolen from her.  I hate that her parents made her so vulnerable.  Protecting her, weakened her to an extent and that’s a shame that they handicapped her in that way.

As I said, this book was well done in that it was fast and the author truly did keep me guessing until the end.  Even then, I was unwilling to believe the breadcrumbs she gave me in the last couple of chapters until Lenni point blank makes the damning statement in her own words.  Then I was just distraught and disgusted.  Lenni is the only true victim in this novel.  I’m still torn as to whether Rain is a victim in another respect of this novel considering certain behaviors before.  However, she was vulnerable in her own right and it most definitely not okay for anyone to take advantage of that.  Again, not a big fan of this style of mystery ala Gone Girl, but the author did do a bang-up job of keeping the suspense going on the culprit.

Lady Esbe’s Favorite Character(s):  Jason.

Lady Esbe listened to the Audible edition of this selection, narrated by Karen Cass

Narration of Audible VersionScoring Great Book

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Elle Tea:  Scoring It Was OK Book

I’ve struggled for two weeks with how to convey my thoughts about The Reunion.  It’s not a difficult book to understand or even enjoy, it’s just that it’s so… well, it is what it is. [Insert a shrug and a sort of mumbled, “Meh,” here.]  Hence my two-cup rating – I didn’t like it, I didn’t hate it, it’s just… OK.

The Reunion is your average gather-everyone-together-for-some-purpose-then-gradually-break-them-apart sort of mystery novel.  A family fractured by tragedy and a few estranged friends all come together to bid farewell to the past, only to find that the past isn’t quite ready to bid farewell to them.  Old resentments quickly begin to bubble back to the surface, along with big sloppy servings of all new abhorrent behavior.

The cast, centered around Claire – our traumatized, submissive, guilt-ridden protagonist – included: a resentful but well-meaning brother, a broken father, a sad but resilient mother, a high-school sweetheart, said sweetheart’s rival – now the successful but controlling husband, and the too-pretty-and-too-damaged-for-her-own-good former high school BFF.  Added to this dysfunctional circle of OGs are Claire’s teenage son, her BFF’s too-pretty-and-too-damaged-for-her-own-good teenage daughter, and her pregnant sister-in-law.  Like the novel itself, all of the characters are… well, they’re just so…

Average.  It’s all so average.

The Reunion shatters no ground, and the big reveal at the end blows no minds, but Hayes does a decent job of setting and maintaining a rapid, readable pace while simultaneously keeping the “who” in her “whodunit” an actual mystery until the end.  It lacks the depth, intensity, and spectacular writing skill of some of the best of the genre – such as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Intensity, and The Silence of the Lambs – but it also lacks the ridiculous, over-the-top, Lifetime Network sort of melodrama prevalent in some of my least favorite in the genre – such as Gone Girl and Girl on the Train.

Even when trying to discuss the novel with my fellow Ladies, it was hard for me to verbalize anything about it.  It’s… I mean, I hate to repeat myself too much, but it’s all so average.  It isn’t bad.  Parts of it stand out to me as quite good – namely the pace and the twist at the end.  But to me that’s sort of the literary equivalent to a participation prize: 383 pages, and all I can come away with is, hey, at least the first 370 pages moved so quickly, because those last 10 – 20 pages were quite unexpected.

So… I do apologize about not having more to say about this one.  Since this genre isn’t one of my favorites to begin with, I’ll probably not be reading any other novels by this author on my own.  But for mystery fans who are looking to actually be surprised by the culprit of the dastardly deed that sets the tale in motion, The Reunion might be right up your alley.

Elle Tea’s Favorite Character(s):  Jason and Greta.

Elle Tea read the Amazon Kindle edition of this selection.

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BillMo:  Scoring It Was OK Book

***** BillMo’s Review May Contain Spoilers Throughout *****

I hate Callum.

This book was just okay to me. I disliked most of the characters and the one character I liked ended up being a bust. I know he had good intentions but he did not choose a good way to solve a problem that he could have prevented. I don’t want to say too much since it could give away too much of the story.

I really hate Callum.

I did not like Claire she was really selfish. One example would be when her mother wanted to sell the farm because it was too much for her and her husband who was in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s and she was not happy about it. She insisted her dad have a choice too. While this could be understandable if both parents were of sound mind this wasn’t the case in this story. Her mother who was in her early seventies was trying to keep everything running basically by herself. I understand a childhood home being lost but she needed to take a step back to see from her mother’s point of view. She did end up doing this but it was not an initial instinct. She also wanted to have the reunion supposedly to help her dad’s memory when part of it seemed like something to make herself happy.

Her words blended into one big truth that she didn’t want to hear – that her parents weren’t the immortal beings she’d always believed them to be.

Callum is a despicable excuse for a human being.

I did not like Maggie because she needed to grow the eff up. A grown woman bouncing from man to man with an impressionable daughter who more than anything needed stability. Her daughter Rain at the beginning was a pain in the bum and might have needed a firm talking to, but I ended up feeling bad for her because she couldn’t help who her parents were and she seemed to be rebellious because of her situation. She couldn’t help that she had a mother that was okay with her partying and staying out all night. At one point in the story she had been out partying and came back with a swollen lip. Her flippant mother didn’t ask about it and was basically like it’s none of my business to ask she’s a big girl and take care of herself. Her mother doesn’t seem concerned about her until she goes missing during the day because for some reason that’s odd. Also, with all of this being said the mother thinks her daughter tells her everything….I think not.

Did I mention I hate Callum?

The real dangers in life weren’t always the visible or the obvious ones.

I liked Nick because he seemed sincere. He wanted to get along with everyone and have a good time. No bad things to say about Nick.

I hope Callum dies of dysentery.

I had trouble understanding Jason but as the story continued he grew on me. I was on the fence a couple of times as to whether he may have been being over dramatic about something that happened in his past with his father, but it worked itself out…for me that is to understand. However, I was disappointed when he found out something that he did not say anything about right away. In the end he came through for the team.

Someone should punch Callum in the face.

Greta was funny. She seemed so sweet at the beginning but let’s just say going in to labor seems to be able to change you.

If I have not mentioned it previously I hate Callum.

I don’t think I will read any more by this author but to be honest crime novels aren’t really my thing so I wouldn’t have picked this in the first place. There are a couple of twists and turns that were not expected so others that like mysteries may want to give this a go.

In case you were wondering my least favorite was Callum.

BillMo’s Favorite Character(s):  Nick and Greta.

BillMo read the Amazon Kindle edition of this selection.

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