By Sophie Littlefield
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: 8/11/2015
My Rating: 5 Stars
From the award-winning author of The Missing Place—in which “Littlefield’s writing shines" (The Boston Globe)—another gripping exploration of the damage people can do to each other, and the resilience they find in themselves.
A man stands on the Golden Gate Bridge, poised to jump…if a woman on the other end of the phone tells him to.
Maris’s safe suburban world was shattered the day her daughter was found murdered, presumably at the hands of the young woman’s boyfriend. Her marriage crumbling, her routine shattered, Maris walks away from her pampered life as a Bay Area mom the day she receives a call from Ron, father of her daughter’s killer. Wracked with guilt over his son’s actions (and his own possible contribution to them), he asks Maris a single question: should he jump?
With a man’s life in her hands, Maris must decide, perhaps for the first time, what she truly wants. Retribution? Forgiveness? Or something more? Having lost everything, she’s finally free to recreate herself without the confining labels of “wife,” “mother,” or “mourner.” But will this shocking offer free her, or destroy her?
About the Author
Sophie Littlefield grew up in rural Missouri, the middle child of a professor and an artist. She has been writing stories since childhood. After taking a hiatus to raise her children, she sold her first book in 2008, and has since authored over a dozen novels in several genres. Sophie's novels have won Anthony and RT Book Awards and been shortlisted for Edgar, Barry, Crimespree, Macavity, and Goodreads Choice Awards. In addition to women's fiction, she writes the post-apocalyptic AFTERTIME series, the Stella Hardesty and Joe Bashir crime series, and thrillers for young adults. She is a past president of the San Francisco Romance Writers of America chapter. Sophie makes her home in northern California. Website Twitter
A special thank you to Gallery Books and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Following Sophie Littlefield’s The Missing Place, landing on my Top Booklist of 2014, she returns with riveting psychological suspense THE GUILTY ONE, delving into the aftermath of tragedy, grief, and hope for rediscovery.
As the novel opens we meet Maris, 49-year old mother, main protagonist, who has suffered a horrible tragedy. Her teenage daughter Calla has been murdered. Calla’s former boyfriend, Karl was found guilty and is serving time in prison. Maris’s life is falling apart. Her marriage to Jeff, has been long gone. He has not been there for her, and even more so now since the loss of their daughter and their money. Their days of private schools, luxury homes, possessions, social events, and the finer things of life are long gone, as are their friends in these circles.
Maris is trying to find her way. How can she go on? What does she have left? Can she force herself to live with her successful sister? What is her purpose? She cannot go back to teaching and cannot bear to see reminders of her daughter and that life. Can she live again and move beyond her grief, rage, and depression?
Karl’s parents, Ron and Deb are hanging on by a thread, trying to deal with the aftermath of their son, being convicted of a horrific crime. Did they miss the signs of their violent son? Was the breakup too much for him to handle. Where did they go wrong? Do they continue fighting for appeals and drag Calla’s family through the stress again? Ron and Deb’s marriage is also suffering. Deb is determined to support her son, and Ron, has all but given up-- he cannot stand to visit his son. He feels guilt and thinks if he can end his own life, maybe he can help ease Maris’s loss. He thinks possibly jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge may settle the score. He will let Maris decide.
Maris wants to escape. She does not want to be the mother of the girl who was murdered. She is tired of the media, the sympathy, everyone feeling sorry for her, the guilt, and the sadness. She wants to go somewhere where no one knows her. She wants to start over without anyone knowing the past tragedy connected to her life.
Feeling numb and distraught, she drives to a bad area of town, with a few things in her car and stops to get coffee, where no one will recognize her, on her way to her sister’s house. While at the coffee shop, her car is broken into, and an eccentric young woman (Pet) with a backpack, and tattoos, and piercings, comes into the shop and sits next to her.
After she gets sick, Pet stays by her side. Pet has her own secrets; however on the exterior, she seems happy and content. However, Maris soon learns there are caring people out there who lead simple lives without all the money, and material possessions, who care. Everyone has their own burdens to bear and past to deal with.
When she decides to rent a small low end inexpensive apartment next to Pet for a few weeks until she decides what she is going to do, her world opens to others with open hearts, those with their own burdens and tragedies.
We meet Pet’s landlord- Norris, her boss-George, and her mother. Each of the characters will come to hold special meaning to Maris on her road to acceptance and rediscovery. Was her marriage really in trouble before Calla’s murder? Can she go from elaborate galas to backyard BBQs? Can she love again? For the first time, she feels needed and accomplishing something. Can she be there for Pet in her time of need, as she was for her?
Flashing back and forth from Maris to Ron, we learn about Ron’s past, and his abusive relationship with his own father, and how this has carried over with his own relationship between him and his own son. Will he have to face his own past violence, and be honest, in order to continue a relationship with his wife and his own son? Will Maris be able to move on and come to terms with the fallout of this tragedy and live again?
How can you ever make up for the loss of an innocent life? In The Guilty One, a father struggles for redemption—and a mother wonders if she can ever find the strength to start over.
Wow, Littlefield delves into the emotional ties which bind us from grief, tragedy, loss, and love. Especially, when the parents know one another, adding to the intensity. A daughter and son dating; what went wrong? When teenage emotions become powerful and obsessive and crosses the line into violence.
What I particularly enjoy about Sophie’s powerful writing with her last two books, is how she uses well-developed characters, strong women and mothers, of teens-- who can be broken from life’s complications—from the rich, well to do, to the poor and needy.
From both perspectives, she demonstrates how people can connect with our lives—some from the wrong side of the track, from different walks of life---which teach us important life lessons. Her characters seek a higher purpose and more meaningful life--triumph over tragedy.
I loved Pet’s character, and how she accepted Maris without asking questions. How she invited her into her life, introduced her to her friends--We all want to meet a simple fun-loving George!
A highly emotional, gripping page-turner psychological suspense, and a gifted powerhouse author not to be missed. After reading these two 5 star winners, may have to go back and read her backlist! An ideal choice for book clubs and discussions, with a wide variety of personalities and perspectives. In fact enjoyed these characters so much, would love to see a continuation.
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