On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. While neighbors struggle to understand why anyone would want to harm the respected Bordens, those close to the family have a different tale to tell—of a father with an explosive temper; a spiteful stepmother; and two spinster sisters, with a bond even stronger than blood, desperate for their independence.
As the police search for clues, Emma comforts an increasingly distraught Lizzie whose memories of that morning flash in scattered fragments. Had she been in the barn or the pear arbor to escape the stifling heat of the house? When did she last speak to her stepmother? Were they really gone and would everything be better now? Shifting among the perspectives of the unreliable Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are slowly revealed through a high-wire feat of storytelling.
There is definitely a strong familiar feeling to this story. It jumps through different characters point-of-view, and Lizzie’s way of thinking reminds me of The Yellow Wallpaper. This unreliable narration and the flitting between thoughts gives you a rushed feeling, as if you were racing to keep up with her. The story goes on, introducing us to more characters and their ways of thinking. Author Sarah Schmidt has done an excellent job giving each of these characters their own unique voice and yet tied them together in such a way that it flowed almost seamlessly. I was very surprised to find that this was a debut novel as her writing style seems well tested. I can understand how some might not enjoy this book and I feel like it will be very polarizing. I personally enjoy a book that lures me in and then spends the next few hours leading me down a twisting road. I do also enjoy simple A to B stories but this was a welcome break and I will be looking forward to Sarah Schmidt’s next book.
*This eBook was provided by NetGalley and Atlantic Monthly Press in exchange for honest feedback*
Freelance Editor & Reviewer