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Take Me Apart

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A young archivist's obsession with her subject's mysterious death threatens to destroy her fragile grasp on sanity, in a riveting debut novel of psychological suspense. When the famed photographer Miranda Brand died mysteriously at the height of her career, it sent shock waves through Callinas, California. Decades later, old wounds are reopened when her son, Theo, hires ex- A young archivist's obsession with her subject's mysterious death threatens to destroy her fragile grasp on sanity, in a riveting debut novel of psychological suspense. When the famed photographer Miranda Brand died mysteriously at the height of her career, it sent shock waves through Callinas, California. Decades later, old wounds are reopened when her son, Theo, hires ex-journalist Kate Aitken to create an archive of his mother's work. From Miranda's vast maze of personal effects, Kate pieces together a portrait of a vibrant artist buckling under the pressures of ambition, motherhood, and marriage. As the summer progresses, Kate navigates vicious local rumors and her growing attraction to the enigmatic Theo, all while unearthing the shocking details of Miranda's private life. But Kate has secrets of her own, and when she stumbles across a diary that may finally resolve the mystery of Miranda's death, her curiosity starts to spiral into a dangerous obsession. With breathtaking and haunting imagery, Take Me Apart paints a vivid picture of two magnetic young women, separated by years, but bonded by shared struggles. Sara Sligar draws readers into a web of secrets and lies, alternating between the present and the past and revealing the truth about Miranda's death through the objects she left behind.


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A young archivist's obsession with her subject's mysterious death threatens to destroy her fragile grasp on sanity, in a riveting debut novel of psychological suspense. When the famed photographer Miranda Brand died mysteriously at the height of her career, it sent shock waves through Callinas, California. Decades later, old wounds are reopened when her son, Theo, hires ex- A young archivist's obsession with her subject's mysterious death threatens to destroy her fragile grasp on sanity, in a riveting debut novel of psychological suspense. When the famed photographer Miranda Brand died mysteriously at the height of her career, it sent shock waves through Callinas, California. Decades later, old wounds are reopened when her son, Theo, hires ex-journalist Kate Aitken to create an archive of his mother's work. From Miranda's vast maze of personal effects, Kate pieces together a portrait of a vibrant artist buckling under the pressures of ambition, motherhood, and marriage. As the summer progresses, Kate navigates vicious local rumors and her growing attraction to the enigmatic Theo, all while unearthing the shocking details of Miranda's private life. But Kate has secrets of her own, and when she stumbles across a diary that may finally resolve the mystery of Miranda's death, her curiosity starts to spiral into a dangerous obsession. With breathtaking and haunting imagery, Take Me Apart paints a vivid picture of two magnetic young women, separated by years, but bonded by shared struggles. Sara Sligar draws readers into a web of secrets and lies, alternating between the present and the past and revealing the truth about Miranda's death through the objects she left behind.

30 review for Take Me Apart

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lala BooksandLala

    Kat told me to

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kat

    i know this just came out last month but y’all better not keep sleeping on this book!!!! more of a literary psychological drama than a traditional thriller, this is a book that explores the pressures of art, marriage, and motherhood. it connects two women through their struggles, intertwining their lives in a way that completely grabbed my attention and i would highly recommend! cw: suicide, discussions about loss of a loved one & grief, mentions of self harm, domestic violence, rape/sexual assaul i know this just came out last month but y’all better not keep sleeping on this book!!!! more of a literary psychological drama than a traditional thriller, this is a book that explores the pressures of art, marriage, and motherhood. it connects two women through their struggles, intertwining their lives in a way that completely grabbed my attention and i would highly recommend! cw: suicide, discussions about loss of a loved one & grief, mentions of self harm, domestic violence, rape/sexual assault, postpartum psychosis, bipolar disorder

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nilufer Ozmekik

    It was not the thriller that I was looking forward to read but it’s promising, effective, well-written psychological drama/ mystery. So you may be asking why I gave Switzerland treatment to this book by giving 3 stars: Well, I have complex feelings about narration. Some parts of the book belongs to Miranda’s story deserved 4 to 5 stars because it was complex, surprising, exhilarating, moving, strong parts of the novel but when I go to present, abuse story and #metoo movement parts do not seem ge It was not the thriller that I was looking forward to read but it’s promising, effective, well-written psychological drama/ mystery. So you may be asking why I gave Switzerland treatment to this book by giving 3 stars: Well, I have complex feelings about narration. Some parts of the book belongs to Miranda’s story deserved 4 to 5 stars because it was complex, surprising, exhilarating, moving, strong parts of the novel but when I go to present, abuse story and #metoo movement parts do not seem genuine or relatable for me. My starts going back between 2 to 3 and sometimes they dropped to 1 when the boredom takes over. But I still have to emphasize: this is still good reading and the author has so much potential, talent to share. Let me summarize the plot: Miranda Brand is highly achieved photographer dies mysteriously leaving so many question marks behind. She seems like she have it all: a beautiful family, a thriving successful career. Her death cannot be suicide, can be? After his dead’s sudden dead, their son Theo decides to clear the estate and but he needs someone to adroitly organize her mother’s belongings. She hires our present time heroine Kate Aitken: suffering from depression, needing a quick fresh start after being accused a superior sexual harassment at her work place in NYC and gets sacked. As soon as she moves to West Coast to a small town where her uncle and aunt live, she hears about famous photographer’s tragic story who committed suicide 20 years ago. But we still don’t for sure if she really did that! So she applies for a job for working as an archivist to organize Miranda’s documents, correspondences are piled up like big mountains and more terrifying than my MOUNT TBR (Okay, I’m taking it back, nothing can be more terrifying than my MOUNT TBR and me if someone hides my wine bottles!), gets hired by Theo who acts quirky and distanced around her. But he is also charming and demanding. Of course it’s evitable as they start to spend more time, they get closer and form a romantic relationship. But why Theo has so many secrets? And he fails from anger management control, doesn’t he? Could he do something to his mother? We’re moving back and forth between Kate and Miranda’s stories. We learn more about Miranda’s painful past from her diary pages which are better crafted, more layered, emotional. We see her isolation, depression and fights with her inner demons and her ups and downs of her mental state. And of course there are romantic parts help to conclude and intercept the stories. Overall: this is emotional, moving, action packed women’s fiction. I couldn’t relate with Kate but I truly loved Miranda’s story and my cruel heart ached for her. It’s still well-written and enjoyable book, I didn’t get bored a little bit but I was expecting a thriller and Kate’s parts of the story a little annoyed me and I read them mandatorily. So 3.25 stars but I’m looking forward to read more books of the author because I loved her moving and creative way of playing with words and reaching our hearts with heartbreaking story of Miranda. So much special thanks to NetGalley, Farrar, Status and Giroux for sharing this interesting ARC in exchange my honest review.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    This book didn’t start off well for me. The writing grated on me. At times, it bordered on cheesy and at others, came across as just plain melodramatic. Kate has lost her job as a journalist in New York, the victim of sexual harassment. She takes a new job in California as an archivist cataloguing the work of Miranda Brand, a famous, now dead photographer. It’s not an easy job, as everything has been thrown in one room, including trash. And Theo, Miranda’s son, is the typical cryptic boss - secr This book didn’t start off well for me. The writing grated on me. At times, it bordered on cheesy and at others, came across as just plain melodramatic. Kate has lost her job as a journalist in New York, the victim of sexual harassment. She takes a new job in California as an archivist cataloguing the work of Miranda Brand, a famous, now dead photographer. It’s not an easy job, as everything has been thrown in one room, including trash. And Theo, Miranda’s son, is the typical cryptic boss - secretive, harsh. He came across as a cliche, really. The chapters flip back and forth between Kate and Miranda. At least Miranda’s chapters were interesting, especially when she wrote about her photography. Kate comes across as bland, flat, despite her psychological problems and prior history. Things unfold pretty much as you would expect. In a nutshell, the book just didn’t excite me. I will say, it picked up for the last quarter, but by then, it was too little, too late. My thanks to netgalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux for an advance copy of this book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Miranda Brand was a famous artist / photographer that dies mysteriously during the height of her career. After her husband dies her son Theo is tasked with clearing out their estate. Miranda was not one for organization and her office resembles that of a hoarder so he hires Kate Aiken to archive his mothers work. While Theo is handsome he is also mysterious and menacing in his own way but Kate can't help but to be attracted to him. After leaving her job in NYC due to inappropriate behavior by a Miranda Brand was a famous artist / photographer that dies mysteriously during the height of her career. After her husband dies her son Theo is tasked with clearing out their estate. Miranda was not one for organization and her office resembles that of a hoarder so he hires Kate Aiken to archive his mothers work. While Theo is handsome he is also mysterious and menacing in his own way but Kate can't help but to be attracted to him. After leaving her job in NYC due to inappropriate behavior by a male co-worker the last thing she needs is to start a relationship with her boss. As she begins to archive Miranda's work she is beginning to see the bigger picture. One of deep depression, physical, and emotional abuse. Kate can't help but wonder if Miranda did indeed commit suicide or if something more sinister happened. Kate decides to do her own investigating and will question and accuse any one that will listen to her. The chapters alternate between Kate (present day) and Miranda's personal letters and diary. I found the Miranda chapters quite compelling (4 stars) but the Kate chapters were weak in comparison (2 stars). I guess that places this one firmly at 3 stars! Thank you to Edelweiss and MCD for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Elle

    I could not pull myself away from Sara Sligar’s debut, Take Me Apart. I probably sound like a broken record every time I laud a slow-burn suspense novel like this, but it really was that good. Her writing is both expressive and smart, with characters that are so distinctly human that they probably resemble actual people you know. There’s so many things I loved about this book; this review is probably just going to be me listing them out for you here. This is the first thriller I’ve read in a whi I could not pull myself away from Sara Sligar’s debut, Take Me Apart. I probably sound like a broken record every time I laud a slow-burn suspense novel like this, but it really was that good. Her writing is both expressive and smart, with characters that are so distinctly human that they probably resemble actual people you know. There’s so many things I loved about this book; this review is probably just going to be me listing them out for you here. This is the first thriller I’ve read in a while where someone isn’t murdered in the first few chapters. So if you’re expecting the story to start with a bang, you may be kept waiting a while. Instead we follow Kate, a former journalist, now an archivist, who takes a job in the California Bay Area in order to get away from her old life and career. There’s a lot that’s left murky surrounding her past, and as she slowly peels back the layers of the family she’s now working for, we get to uncover more of what Kate’s kept hidden. My primary draw initially was to Miranda Brand, the famous artist whom Kate is now chronicling. She’s a fascinating character, and some of the best parts in the book are her transcripts, diary entries and letters that come at the end of each chapter. Kate becomes increasingly entangled in the enigma that is Miranda Brand, but also by her son, Theo, and his two young children, Jemima and Oscar. I was struck at how thematic this mystery was. Through the flashbacks to the late 80s and early 90s back to present day, Sligar really delved into some heavy topics, and did so with immense skill. Take Me Apart covers mental health, both the realities of and the stigma surrounding it, public image vs private life, nature vs nurture and more all while keeping and building tension. There’s even a peek into the utter tediousness and ineptitude of the US healthcare system. This is definitely a post-#MeToo novel. So much of Kate and Miranda’s lives are shaped by the men around them. Sligar uses her ‘strong female characters’ as an indictment of the world they live in. Through Miranda’s work specifically, we’re asked to examine the way that female pain is monetized and romanticized as a consumable piece of art. We believe so much has changed, but has it really? I’m not sure, but I find it hard to imagine this story being written in the same way even five years ago. But beyond all of that, this was just a really addictive book. My pulse started racing when the characters’ did, and I couldn’t turn down my frenetic reading pace until I finished it. I haven’t had my mood shifted in this way for quite a while, and I’m excited to see what Sara Sligar comes out with next. *Thanks to Farrar, Straus and Giroux & Netgalley for an advance copy!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tammy

    This is a nuanced addition to the psychological thriller subgenre. Don’t go into it expecting a typical twisty thriller. This is much more of an examination of mental health of the archivist as well as the famous, deceased artist whose life she is trying to piece together from the remnants of her life. Deceit, betrayal, the subjugation of women, and motherhood among many other issues come into play.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Anna Luce

    DNF 50% Take Me Apart...ya basic. While I really dislike abandoning books halfway through, I just can't do it anymore. So far everything about Take Me Apart is 'basic': been there, done that. ✔ a dual storyline following two women ✔ the woman in the 'now' becomes increasingly obsessed by the dead/missing/older woman ✔ there is a handsome guy who might be dangerous (he usually has olive skin, dark hair, and smells mysteriously sexy) ✔ one of the women is running away from her past ✔ the other woman al DNF 50% Take Me Apart...ya basic. While I really dislike abandoning books halfway through, I just can't do it anymore. So far everything about Take Me Apart is 'basic': been there, done that. ✔ a dual storyline following two women ✔ the woman in the 'now' becomes increasingly obsessed by the dead/missing/older woman ✔ there is a handsome guy who might be dangerous (he usually has olive skin, dark hair, and smells mysteriously sexy) ✔ one of the women is running away from her past ✔ the other woman also has a lot of secrets ✔ a splash of pop feminism masquerading as a raw portrayal of the female experience/creativity ✔ an incredibly generic house in which bad stuff may have happened I really love books that focus on artists, and some of my favourite ones revolve around female photographers, such as Self-Portrait with Boy and Generation Loss. In these two novels we learn of the character's relationship to their art, their techniques, their struggles for recognition. Half-way through Take Me Apart and I know very little about Miranda's work. We know it's 'visceral', and bloody, and oh so feminist! I was hoping that the book would at least give us a vivid impression of the art world during the 80s but...it doesn't. Sara Sligar tries to shock her readers through Miranda's unfiltered diaries, but to be honest I didn't find Miranda's language particularly 'transgressive' or 'empowering'. Wow, she uses the word vagina, how real she is. There are a few gratuitous scenes that are meant to show us just all the terrible ways in which women's bodies and minds are controlled and debased by men. Time and again Sligar sacrifices realism for dramatic effect. Then we have Kate. Jeez. If you've ever read a book that was classified as a domestic thriller, then you already know her. She's different, she has issues, she hasn't had it easy. Her idiocy is made to seem as necessary, because only she will be able to uncover the truth behind x (in this case, Miranda's life and suicide). These characters decide to play detective, thinking they are some sort of modern Miss Marple, even if they have no idea what they're doing. They ask stupid question that will obviously rile people up. Kate believes she's entitled to learn about Miranda's private life because she was hired by Theo, Miranda's son, to create an archive of his mother's stuff. (view spoiler)[She snoops around his house, believes that she has a right to see everything related to Miranda, including her private diary. Come on! She's a former journalist, a supposedly intelligent human being...yet the narrative makes it seem as if her violation of Theo, and Miranda's, privacy is due to her 'thoroughness'. Surely she's aware that Theo gets to decide what can be included in the archive? And that she acts so outraged by Theo questioning her work ethic. Girl, stop lying to yourself. You have no integrity. (hide spoiler)] Also, having just met Theo she believes that she has some sort right over him...sure Kate. Cause that's not creepy. After a few tense interactions she cries out to him to 'act like a human being!'. Kate is a voyeur, and she wants to witness Theo's grief...and I'm supposed to feel for her? Because of the 'big bad thing' that made her leave New York? Sure, whatever. The novel's more dramatic scenes were incredibly unconvincing. (view spoiler)[The cake scene for example. Am I to believe that a group of 'normal/sane' individuals give Theo a 'welcome cake' with a photo of his dead mother? And that they would 'unintentionally' place two candle in her eyes? Come on! This is ridiculous! (hide spoiler)] Sligar also tries to incorporate racial inequality in her story by throwing in two women of colour whose only purpose is to remind Kate of social privilege. These two characters do not have personalities nor extended scenes but appear only so that the narrative can superficially touch upon race. Take Me Apart fails to be shocking, woke, artsy, or real. The more I read, the more aggravated I became. This novel is beyond mediocre, yet the narrative take itself so seriously. Life's too short and all of that so I'm going to say bye bye to this terrible novel.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    Set in the fictional Northern California town of Callinas (Bolinas?), near the fog-shrouded edge of the continent where the cliffs drop off into the sea at Point Reyes, “Take Me Apart” is a psychological portrait of Kate Aitken, who is literally falling apart. Once an up and coming NYC-based journalist, Kate’s life fell apart after she accused a superior of sexual harassment. In the fall out, she suffered depression. Now, she is starting a new life -at least temporarily- in the hills north of th Set in the fictional Northern California town of Callinas (Bolinas?), near the fog-shrouded edge of the continent where the cliffs drop off into the sea at Point Reyes, “Take Me Apart” is a psychological portrait of Kate Aitken, who is literally falling apart. Once an up and coming NYC-based journalist, Kate’s life fell apart after she accused a superior of sexual harassment. In the fall out, she suffered depression. Now, she is starting a new life -at least temporarily- in the hills north of the San Francisco Bay. It’s a small insular town where her aunt and uncle live and a famous photographer and icon, Miranda Brand, who suffered from many psychiatric ailments took her own life twenty years ago -or did she. There are still whispers around town that the artist’s 11 year old son, an odd one to be sure, fired the fatal shot. Of course, that wouldn’t be more than ancient history except Kate has taken a job over the summer with the son, Theo, as the archivist putting some organization to Miranda’s papers and correspondence which are still piled up in a hoarder’s dream in the big old house. And, the son, Theo, is odd, stand-offish, distant, and quite a bit creepy. The story alternates between Kate’s life now and the correspondence and diary entries from Miranda’s heyday. Kate is attracted to the strange young man who has so many family secrets, but can’t stop herself from investigating whether Miranda took her own life or was the victim of her son’s wrath or someone else. This is not an action-packed story. Before reading it, I actually thought more was going to happen than actually did. There’s little indeed that takes place other than perhaps a budding romance. It’s more a story about Kate’s inner thoughts and emotions and the connection she has with the woman from the past, Miranda. It would probably be categorized as more “women’s fiction” than a thriller. Not my usual genre, but the writing is compelling. And, it is easy to read and absorbing.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Angie Kim

    TAKE ME APART is a stunning debut. In gorgeous prose, Sara Sligar creates a haunting and decidedly feminist literary thriller that explores mental illness, violence, and the nature of obsession. I loved this novel so much that I blew off all my responsibilities, turned off my phone, and blistered through the whole thing in one sitting. Unforgettable and thought-provoking, TAKE ME APART has my highest recommendation.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    “Take Me Apart” is an interesting suspense novel. I wouldn’t categorize it as a thriller because the pace is too slow and brooding. It’s a character driven story, told in third person. The character Kate Aitken begins the story flying from NYC to Northern California. Kate is running from her last job where there was a questionable dismissal. She will be living with her probing Aunt and Uncle while she works as an art archivist creating order of a famous artist’s works and collections. The artist, “Take Me Apart” is an interesting suspense novel. I wouldn’t categorize it as a thriller because the pace is too slow and brooding. It’s a character driven story, told in third person. The character Kate Aitken begins the story flying from NYC to Northern California. Kate is running from her last job where there was a questionable dismissal. She will be living with her probing Aunt and Uncle while she works as an art archivist creating order of a famous artist’s works and collections. The artist, Miranda Brand, was a controversial photographer who died twenty-four years prior. Her son, Theo Brand, is opening his childhood home and paying Kate to go through his mother’s papers. Miranda’s story is told through the paperwork which includes birth records, college disciplinary papers, emails, letters, and a diary. The diary Kate found by snooping. It’s clear that Kate has some mental issues. Reading what she’s doing in the house, spying and conducting her own research leaves the reader on edge and uneasy. There are hints that she should be on medication and seeking a psychiatrist, which adds to the creepiness of Kate’s chapters. Miranda’s journal allows the reader to see her slow fall into mental illness. Miranda is institutionalized for post-partum depression. Reading her journal is like getting into the mind of a rapidly degrading psyche. The subtext of this story is mental illness and its effects on lives. Both Kate and Miranda are train-wrecks to read about. Author Sara Sligar has a profound knowledge of depression and manic behavior and the flawed reasonings that dominate a mentally diseased mind. I liked this story, but I cannot say I loved it. It surly occupied my mind in this current COVID-19 period.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    3.5 stars. You can read TAKE ME APART as a mystery. I don't think it's the ideal reading, but you certainly can. Kate has left her life as a journalist in New York after she was the victim of workplace sexual harassment. She is unsteady and at sea, trying to keep her bipolar disorder in check as she rebuilds her life. She has moved in with her Aunt and Uncle in California where she has taken on a temporary job as an archivist for Theo, the son of Miranda Brand, a famous feminist photographer and 3.5 stars. You can read TAKE ME APART as a mystery. I don't think it's the ideal reading, but you certainly can. Kate has left her life as a journalist in New York after she was the victim of workplace sexual harassment. She is unsteady and at sea, trying to keep her bipolar disorder in check as she rebuilds her life. She has moved in with her Aunt and Uncle in California where she has taken on a temporary job as an archivist for Theo, the son of Miranda Brand, a famous feminist photographer and artist who died when he was a child. The mystery builds as Kate learns more and more about Miranda as she sorts through her papers, and even finds her diary. Miranda also struggles with mental illness and Kate becomes invested in her to an extent that clearly isn't healthy. But she focuses her efforts on trying to find out the truth about Miranda's death. It is officially suicide, but she suspects Miranda was murdered and she is desperate to find the truth. I say it's not the ideal reading to see this as a mystery because a mystery doesn't make the answer quite clear the entire time. And if you are able to read the book without losing yourself in Kate's point of view, everything is right there. You can explain Theo's stiff and cagey behavior, the suspicions of everyone in the small town, and what became of Miranda. Kate cannot see it, though. Because Kate is not attending to her mental health the way she should. The marketing copy here is not my favorite, because this is not Kate's fragile hold of sanity. Kate is sane, she is just stuck and prone to get overly focused on the details rather than the big picture. She does not always make healthy decisions. She still hasn't found enough stability to focus on growth. I suspect readers who have had their own struggles with mental illness will recognize this in Kate. Sligar's writing of her is not as insensitive as the jacket copy, and this doesn't come off as a cruel depiction of a bipolar character. Kate can describe her own patterns and issues, she just doesn't always recognize them in the moment. Sometimes in a crime novel I get to a point where I get very frustrated with the protagonist because they are making what are clearly bad decisions. Kate makes lots of them. But at least with Kate I understand why she makes them. It isn't just for the sake of the plot. It is Kate grasping as hard as she can on to what she has decided is important. The book includes lots of Miranda Brand's letters and her diary. These are sometimes more clunky than Kate's own mental health struggles, but I often find that this is just what happens when you use diary entries and such to build out the plot, so I forgive it somewhat. There is a lot about mental health in here. There are frequent references to suicide, self-harm, postpartum psychosis, and a psychiatric hospitalization. This reminded me a lot of WOMAN NO. 17 by Edan Lepucki, so if you liked that you will probably like this, too. They are both about mysterious female artists, they are both set in California, they both have a young woman reeling from her own failures who becomes overly obsessed with the artist. With all that said, they are also quite different and TAKE ME APART is interesting in its own right.

  13. 4 out of 5

    sXe Punk Girl

    Riveting and spellbinding from beginning to end. Sara Sligar is a new breath of fresh air for the literacy world. I look forward to her future work with great anticipation—full review to follow soon.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Layne

    “Men aren’t afraid of misinterpretation. It’s not dangerous to them. Women, we know bad things can happen when someone misreads you.” So glad I got an early copy of this book, because now I have a couple months of lead time to scream about how great it is! I've been eagerly awaiting Sara Sligar's debut, because it includes all my favorite things: difficult women, brooding men, and of course, archival records. TAKE ME APART is my favorite kind of thriller: subtle and psychological rather than a “Men aren’t afraid of misinterpretation. It’s not dangerous to them. Women, we know bad things can happen when someone misreads you.” So glad I got an early copy of this book, because now I have a couple months of lead time to scream about how great it is! I've been eagerly awaiting Sara Sligar's debut, because it includes all my favorite things: difficult women, brooding men, and of course, archival records. TAKE ME APART is my favorite kind of thriller: subtle and psychological rather than action-packed (though trust me, it’ll make your heart pound all the same). At times it even feels like a modern Gothic romance, with Theo as the brooding Mr. Rochester type who’s hiding secrets (thankfully not including a mentally ill wife!) in his attic. The book is also packed full of stunning prose, and I particularly loved the masterful way Sligar rendered Kate's slow unraveling as her obsession with Miranda's life and untimely death takes hold. Don’t miss this one when it comes out in April 2020!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jordy’s Book Club

    QUICK TAKE: elegantly-written mystery about an archivist who tries to piece together the life and tragic death of an enigmatic artist. The character dynamics are interesting, and the feminist/mental illness plotline is thought-provoking and a bit maddening. Definitely worth putting on your #tbr (though keep in mind it is a slow burn read).

  16. 5 out of 5

    Luana Filgueiras

    Thank you to @fsgbooks and @sarasligar for this ARC. 🧡PUB DAY: April 28th,2020 I’m going to be honest and admit I acted a little crazy 😜 just to get this arc. When I saw this on Netgalley and read the synopsis I knew I had to read it. Realizing I couldn’t request this specific one due to my location, I messaged the author, emailed the publisher, and commented on a random picture on the publisher’s IG about how much I needed this. As it turns out, I’d do it all over again for this book because it w Thank you to @fsgbooks and @sarasligar for this ARC. 🧡PUB DAY: April 28th,2020 I’m going to be honest and admit I acted a little crazy 😜 just to get this arc. When I saw this on Netgalley and read the synopsis I knew I had to read it. Realizing I couldn’t request this specific one due to my location, I messaged the author, emailed the publisher, and commented on a random picture on the publisher’s IG about how much I needed this. As it turns out, I’d do it all over again for this book because it was so worth it. “Take Me Apart” not only took me by my heartstrings and ripped them open, but it did exactly what the title said it would: It gripped me. Haunted me. And took me apart. I am still in utter disbelief that this is a debut novel. Sligar’s writing style is seductive, perceptive, avant-garde and simply unforgettable. This is a 5 star read just from Sligar’s prose alone. In addition, this novel analyzes some very powerful and timeless themes regarding feminism, obsession, gaslighting, mental illness, and the unattainable search for perfection and mass production in the name of art and fame. I hate comparing just because “Take Me Apart” is so uniquely stunning, but if you loved Verity by CoHo, you will ABSOLUTELY fall in love with this just as I did. I’m calling it, this is my favorite debut novel of the year and my top 5 of all time.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Alix

    I would describe Take Me Apart as a slow burn mystery that delves into the world of these two women. It tackles topics such as mental illness, the powerlessness women feel from men, the expectations of women by society, and domestic abuse. As a woman who has a mental illness, I felt I was able to strongly connect to these two women and the struggles they face in a society that has an expected image of how a woman should act. A lot of what Sligar touches upon is what many women have experienced t I would describe Take Me Apart as a slow burn mystery that delves into the world of these two women. It tackles topics such as mental illness, the powerlessness women feel from men, the expectations of women by society, and domestic abuse. As a woman who has a mental illness, I felt I was able to strongly connect to these two women and the struggles they face in a society that has an expected image of how a woman should act. A lot of what Sligar touches upon is what many women have experienced today. The mystery itself wasn’t as interesting to me as these other aspects of the story mentioned. It’s also fairly predictable too. In terms of the characters, I loved Theo, but I did recognize that some of his actions were problematic, but so were Kate’s. I related to both Kate and Miranda, and I was constantly rooting for the both of them. I was pleased with the ending, but I definitely could have done with some more Kate and Theo scenes. They had some really touching moments where they were able to unburden and express everything they’ve been keeping suppressed. Overall, if you’re looking for a twisty psychological thriller this isn’t the book for you. But if you’re looking for a mystery that deals with strong women with mental illnesses navigating a society that doesn’t understand or include them, and a portrait of the power relations between men and women, then, this is the book for you.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bandit

    An ambitious debut of psychological fiction, that can theoretically be sold as a thriller, but isn’t really one. Once upon a time there lived a talented photographer named Miranda who found fame and fortune with her art. She found love with a fellow artist, had a baby and lived happily ever…no, wrong, the music screechingly comes to an abrupt end. Because, of course, what sort of a book would that make. No, this is an entirely different story, albeit based on the same basic facts. And there’s th An ambitious debut of psychological fiction, that can theoretically be sold as a thriller, but isn’t really one. Once upon a time there lived a talented photographer named Miranda who found fame and fortune with her art. She found love with a fellow artist, had a baby and lived happily ever…no, wrong, the music screechingly comes to an abrupt end. Because, of course, what sort of a book would that make. No, this is an entirely different story, albeit based on the same basic facts. And there’s that one last and most salient fact…Miranda’s killed herself under suspicious circumstances at 36 in her own yard. Gone, though not quite forgotten, achieving that certain immortality of the artist, she is still a well known name for some. But for Kate she is now mostly a job, since Kate has been hired by Miranda’s now grown son Theo to archive the written materials left behind his mother. For Theo it’s difficult and traumatic enough just being back at his parents’ place, so he mostly does his best gruff impression of a Bronte or Austen character. You know, the ones who later turn out to be oh so lovable. For Kate it’s an opportunity to get away from a professional scorched earth situation back in NYC and enjoy California sun, while staying with the overbearing but well meaning aunt and a milquetoast uncle. And for Miranda…it’s a chance for the truth about her life and her marriage to finally come out. It’ll take a lot of organizing, deciphering and investigating…but in the end the good shall triumph. Meanwhile, there’s also a somewhat trite and somewhat overdone romance to enjoy, if you’re into that sort of thing. And if not (and good for you), there’s an emotionally devastating depiction of an abusive relationship, depression and suicide. Really, that’s where the novel genuinely excels. The sunny side up might be there to balance out all the darkness, but it’s the darkness that is memorable and emotionally engaging. It is Miranda who is the tragic star of this show, not Kate, because Miranda’s story is the one to deliver the most potent punch of all. The diary entries that gradually reveal the closing in walls around her, the claustrophobia of isolation and depression, the spiraling of her life, and her mental state are as riveting as they are tough to get through. That alone makes the book worth reading. Not to say Kate’s story is terrible, but it’s all too MeToo and questionable choices and just not as interesting in comparison. Randomly enough sometimes the side characters are the ones who offer more versatility, in this case the aunt and even once the uncle. There are some debutisms about the book, mainly how heavily it relies on metaphors and similes. At first it was overwhelming and then it either got paired down or I became used to it, but other than that the writing’s really quite good. I found the book to be a fascinating and quite accurate representation of depression and abuse. It isn’t a happy read and it shouldn’t be, though the author has (and I’m not loving this) made overt efforts to brighten it all up with romance and storybook endings, but it is a quite good one. Thanks Netgalley.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Caidyn (BW Reviews; he/him/his)

    I received an ARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review! CW: death, possible suicide, spousal abuse, marital rape, graphic sexual assault, gaslighting, postpartum depression, and postpartum psychosis When I requested this from Netgalley, I wasn't sure what I got into. It sounded like a mystery, but also not much like one at the same time. And, that's how this book was. It's told in two separate parts, one from Kate's perspective set in the present and the other from Miranda's perspect I received an ARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review! CW: death, possible suicide, spousal abuse, marital rape, graphic sexual assault, gaslighting, postpartum depression, and postpartum psychosis When I requested this from Netgalley, I wasn't sure what I got into. It sounded like a mystery, but also not much like one at the same time. And, that's how this book was. It's told in two separate parts, one from Kate's perspective set in the present and the other from Miranda's perspective that's told through papers that were kept. Kate is hired by Theo, Miranda's son, to go through her old things. Miranda is thought to have committed suicide, but Kate, a former journalist, has her doubts. She takes this time to make her own conclusions and to find out more about what really happened. And Miranda's life was... more than hard. It was very intense reading her perspective because I've seen and worked with people who have gone through these things. It was very intense and I want to be clear that it's rather graphic. Her diary entries show postpartum depression and, later, postpartum psychosis. It also talks about marital rape in a very graphic way. I don't want to go into too much detail because it is spoilers, but click the button if you want to know more to keep yourself safe while reading these topics! (view spoiler)[It includes extreme gaslighting by the husband, which includes him stealing her birth control pills to force her into having another baby because he wants one. What can I say? The dude's a dick. (hide spoiler)] Overall, this was a fantastic read. It was very quick and I would look up from my phone to see just how much I read, which was always amazing because I never intended to read so much in such a quick way!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Emma Eisenberg

    Smart, evocative, truly doing new things with the form and a fantastic central character

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mary Keane

    A beautifully written page turner with deep insights into feminism, past and present. Loved it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Diana Iozzia

    "Take Me Apart" Written by Sara Sligar Reviewed by Diana Iozzia "Take Me Apart" is an artistic and surprising thriller, which sets itself apart from others in the same genre. This exciting debut by Sara Sligar opens many new possibilities for the psychological thriller genre. Twisting upon the ever-present fear of distrust for those who care for you, Sligar's characters are tantalizing. This story feels familiar, but in a nostalgic retelling method. The plot revolves around a main character, Kate, "Take Me Apart" Written by Sara Sligar Reviewed by Diana Iozzia "Take Me Apart" is an artistic and surprising thriller, which sets itself apart from others in the same genre. This exciting debut by Sara Sligar opens many new possibilities for the psychological thriller genre. Twisting upon the ever-present fear of distrust for those who care for you, Sligar's characters are tantalizing. This story feels familiar, but in a nostalgic retelling method. The plot revolves around a main character, Kate, who begins archiving letters, photographs, and paperwork for the son of a late famous photographer, Miranda Brand. Kate starts to wonder and draw suspicions about the photographer and her life. Sligar makes it abundantly clear that there is ambiguity around Miranda's death, a possible suicide, or was it worse? Could someone have murdered her? "Take Me Apart" is an interesting, guilty pleasure. Its characters are enigmatic. In learning about the glorified Miranda Brand through her belongings, we discover important details about her life with her husband, Jake, and the son who grows up to Kate's boss and romantic interest, Theo. I enjoyed the different forms of personal effects: Miranda's birth certificate, letters, progress reports, disciplinary board transcripts, news clippings, interviews, diaries, and lecture notes. The reader quickly discovers more about Miranda's fractured mental state. In the realistic and quiet example of "Big Little Lies" by Liane Moriarty, the story delves into a true and honest portrayal of spousal abuse. I was also heavily reminded of the fictional fame, reminiscent of "Sunset Boulevard" and "The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo". There were some aspects of this story that I wasn't completely enamored of. I think that most of the figurative language was effective, but due to the author's predilection for creative writing, some of the more artistic elements were too exaggerated. For example, "Her mouth tasted like dishwater". Either fortunately or unfortunately, the ending of this novel was ambiguous. This startling and refreshing novel was brilliant, but I felt a bit disappointed in the ending. However, the other ninety percent of this debut was perfect, in eyes. Additionally, I feel so strongly that this debut will take Sligar into instant stardom, once this book is fully published. I enjoyed the narrative style deeply. I already am expecting greatness from this author. I cannot wait to read her next book. Sara Sligar deserves every eye on her. I highly recommend to those who enjoy thrillers by Sarah Pekkanen and Greer Hendricks, the Liv Constantine ladies, and Ruth Ware. I received an advance review copy from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux in exchange for reading and reviewing purposes. Thank you again to the publisher. "Take Me Apart" premieres next year, on April 28th.

  23. 4 out of 5

    switterbug (Betsey)

    TAKE ME APART is Women’s Fiction that covers serious issues about the power disparity between men and women, as well as the emotional toll of trauma and healing. Sliger conveyed her themes and placed the plot within the context of art and also intimacy. The structure isn’t inventive but the pieces interlock well enough. There are pique flashes now and then in this chiefly predictable story. Modern day journalist, Kate Aitken, is fired from her NYC job, an ambitious career destroyed by formidable TAKE ME APART is Women’s Fiction that covers serious issues about the power disparity between men and women, as well as the emotional toll of trauma and healing. Sliger conveyed her themes and placed the plot within the context of art and also intimacy. The structure isn’t inventive but the pieces interlock well enough. There are pique flashes now and then in this chiefly predictable story. Modern day journalist, Kate Aitken, is fired from her NYC job, an ambitious career destroyed by formidable men in a #MeToo backstory that is gradually revealed. Kate goes west to a northern California boutique town to posthumously organize a well-known photographer’s personal effects. Miranda Brand died by reported suicide in the early nineties, and her son, Theo, hires Kate to archive her effects and uncover any pieces that may reap rewards. As this is Sliger’s debut, I applaud her effort and stayed sufficiently involved to finish. She is a compassionate and skilled writer—-(if you aren’t, your abilities are limited). So, if the author takes more risks in subsequent novels, she’ll take off. What this narrative lacked was tension, except on a few occasions; it stuck to a deliberate, formulaic arc. Sliger put together a somewhat derivative story but her writing kept me going. Pace was slack, with wearying repetition and chapters lacking momentum. However, Miranda’s diary breathed vigor and urgency into a dead character that surpassed the living ones. The title could mean either “destroy me” or “I can put myself back together.” As I progressed, that is the question I would ask about both Kate and Miranda. There were similarities in their tensions and inequity issues with men and mental health anxieties that undermined their desires for recognition. But, for all the narrative filling, it was periodically like a warm, moist cake with too much gooey and sweet pudding in the middle. Pared down, it could have been pacey, provocative, and half the page count. It lagged when Sliger reiterated ordeals, many of them internal, so I just wanted her to get on with it. If I seem to mostly be complaining about this book, that’s not my full intention. Sliger has much to offer, as soon as she trusts herself enough to leap out of the box. As Miranda said: “New theory: no image is complete without a clue to its continuity. A line that moves beyond the edge. The shadow of an unseen object. A pattern extending outward. Something suffering beyond the edges of the frame.” I look forward to Sliger’s continued work. Thank you to Farrar, Straus, and Giroux for sending me an ARC.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    This debut novel of psychological suspense will definitely get your pages turning. The story follows a young woman (Kate) hired to archive the personal papers, art, and effects of an artist who died by suicide. [TW for those who need to take care.] When Kate reports for her job she meets the artist’s son (Theo) who is tall, muscular, and good looking. Ok, we can all guess where this is going but the author makes both main characters somewhat unreliable. The suspense/mystery is how the artist act This debut novel of psychological suspense will definitely get your pages turning. The story follows a young woman (Kate) hired to archive the personal papers, art, and effects of an artist who died by suicide. [TW for those who need to take care.] When Kate reports for her job she meets the artist’s son (Theo) who is tall, muscular, and good looking. Ok, we can all guess where this is going but the author makes both main characters somewhat unreliable. The suspense/mystery is how the artist actually died. The whole archiving storyline gave the author an interesting opportunity to provide the artist’s backstory through journals, letters, prescriptions, and other ephemera. We learn that both Kate and Theo have troubled pasts and the reader can’t help but wonder which of them will break first. This author has a great writing style and I will be onboard to get her next offering.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Laura Peden

    3.5 rounded up

  26. 4 out of 5

    Venessa ✨

    Take Me Apart was one of those books that truly had me scratching my head like "what is the point?" We're following Kate, who recently lost a high profile job for reasons unknown (to be revealed as the book goes on), so she moves in with her aunt across the country and starts a new job archiving all the files and works of two famous artists (now both dead) under the supervision of their son, Theo. Everyone believes that one of the artists, Miranda, killed herself, but Kate is determined to prove Take Me Apart was one of those books that truly had me scratching my head like "what is the point?" We're following Kate, who recently lost a high profile job for reasons unknown (to be revealed as the book goes on), so she moves in with her aunt across the country and starts a new job archiving all the files and works of two famous artists (now both dead) under the supervision of their son, Theo. Everyone believes that one of the artists, Miranda, killed herself, but Kate is determined to prove that Miranda was actually murdered. Spoiler alert: (view spoiler)[she wasn't murdered... she had actually killed herself, as was originally suspected... so all of Kate's searching was a huge waste of her time and ours. (hide spoiler)] I had a few major issues with the book. First, it's told from alternating perspectives—the first is Kate's, and the second is Miranda's through her journal and other files, news paper clippings, medical records, receipts, etc. that she had saved over the years. When we get to the Miranda chapters, they start by telling us how the following file has been sorted (i.e. Series 1, Box 1, Folder Name), implying that Kate has already sorted through that file. But then, in Kate's subsequent chapter, she had no idea about the information contained in the file. I'm guessing it was an intentional choice by the author to have us learn about Miranda's life, yet keep Kate in the dark while she tries to unravel the "mystery," but it felt super weird that we would know more about Miranda than Kate since Kate's job was to spend her days reading through all of Miranda's files. Even when Kate was actively reading through Miranda's journal, there was hardly any indication that she knew the same information we knew as the reader, even though we were supposedly getting the same information. Even though Kate kept claiming that she felt really connected to Miranda, and that she was learning all this stuff about Miranda by reading the files, the only time Kate ever actively learned something about Miranda was through listening to the town gossip and by talking to people who were active in her life (Miranda's friend, the art dealer, and the cop who investigated her death). Another thing I didn't like was Kate and Theo's relationship. I usually don't care for relationships in mystery/thrillers, and I found this one to be particularly annoying. I can't even tell you how much I hate when a man is being rude to a woman, and then the woman's inner dialogue is like "I couldn't believe how poorly he was treating me, but I couldn't stop thinking about kissing him" ... y'all this book is full of shit like this and it's problematic and gross. Furthermore, the two of them don't even make sense as a couple. Theo is rude to Kate from the first moment they meet. (view spoiler)[She shows up his house to do her job, and immediately accuses her of trespassing, then makes it seem as if she is a crazed stalker, making her feel uncomfortable by saying "take a good look, right where you're standing is where my mom died" or whatever (hide spoiler)] ....who treats an employee like this?? Honestly this is classified as workplace abuse in my mind. Then he justifies it by saying (view spoiler)[ that the only reason he said that was because he wanted to set a boundary because he liked her. I'm sorry but if you don't want to start a romantic/sexual relationship with your employee, then don't. You don't need to treat them like shit. (hide spoiler)] And Kate is no saint either. She constantly (view spoiler)[defies Theo's instructions and feels entitled to do whatever the hell she wants in his house. He tells her to stay out of certain rooms, yet she sneaks around behind his back in the name of "preserving every piece of art that could possibly be in the house," including some rough drawings on a wall... like excuse me, that seems pretty irrelevant when you literally have an entire room of stuff to sort. (hide spoiler)] Then, on top of that, she has the audacity to (view spoiler)[question him on his parenting.... totally crossing the line. (hide spoiler)] Anyway, the true kicker is at the end, when (view spoiler)[Theo reveals all along that he knew Kate was sneaking around in his house, but instead of firing her, he starts a relationship with her instead.... okay then. (hide spoiler)] Lastly, I felt that the journey we took was all over the place. We're told one thing, then it's debunked, then its presented as an option again, then it's like jkjk, then it's like but maybe... I didn't find this exciting, I found it annoying and frustrating. When we get to the end and learn that (view spoiler)[it was all for nothing (hide spoiler)] , I was left incredibly dissatisfied. Overall, I think Miranda's chapters had some good commentary about being a woman in the arts, white privilege, gaslighting, mental health, pressures of motherhood and marriage, etc. but Kate's chapters were irredeemable and made the whole thing a bit of a waste of time.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    I’m finding this a difficult review to write, both because I loved it this book so much and also because I don’t want to give anything away. If you enjoy strong but flawed women, compelling mysteries, clever feminist snark, and reconstructing a life and death from old photos, documents and diaries then this could be the story for you. I should to give a warning for mental illness, suicide, self-harm, mental and physical abuse, gas lighting, sexual harassment, post-partum depression and threateni I’m finding this a difficult review to write, both because I loved it this book so much and also because I don’t want to give anything away. If you enjoy strong but flawed women, compelling mysteries, clever feminist snark, and reconstructing a life and death from old photos, documents and diaries then this could be the story for you. I should to give a warning for mental illness, suicide, self-harm, mental and physical abuse, gas lighting, sexual harassment, post-partum depression and threatening harm to a baby, and I’m sure there are more that I am missing. This isn’t an easy story, and it isn’t a particularly happy story but I found it incredibly fascinating and thought-provoking. The entire book focuses on the lives of two women, Miranda the artist and Kate the archivist who is hired to organize Miranda’s documents after her death. While officially Miranda’s death is ruled a suicide Kate finds evidence that suggests she may have been murdered. This leads Kate down a deep, dark rabbit hole trying to discover the truth about Miranda and her death. When Kate uncovers Miranda’s diary her life story becomes tragically clear and Kate’s own life begins to catastrophically break down. This was a really captivating mystery that had me just as desperate for more of Miranda’s diary as Kate. I wouldn’t call this a thriller but it is more of a slow burn story as all of the pieces come together into a vivid and unhappy picture. I wasn’t sure where the mystery of Miranda’s death was going to go and who might be responsible. There were several possibilities and all seemed equally likely. I was satisfied with the resolution and a bit surprised by the final chapter. For a mostly dark and sad story it was an unexpected joy to have a little ray of light in the end. Thank you to Farrar, Straus and Giroux for providing an Electronic Advance Reader Copy via NetGalley for review.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Heather Fineisen

    A slow, layered read about a fictional famed photographer,Miranda Barnes and the archivist hired to sort through her papers for the brooding, handsome son with secrets. Sligar captures the essence of the artwork and her descriptions evoke a thoughtful regard for the fiction catalog. A secret diary provides revelations in the alternate chapters that tell Miranda' s story. Touches on mental illness, domestic violence and professional ethics. Copy provided by the Publisher and NetGalley

  29. 5 out of 5

    Audra (ouija.doodle.reads)

    This book is something special. A novel told in alternating chapters, part epistolary part narrative, it is an examination of cult of personality, art, and the pressures of marriage, motherhood, and mental wellness. Kate is an archivist going through the less-than-organized files of famous artist Miranda Brand’s life so that her son, her one remaining relative, can sell it. The story is layered: it’s Miranda’s story it’s Kate’s, exploring both of their lives inside and out—who they are and who pe This book is something special. A novel told in alternating chapters, part epistolary part narrative, it is an examination of cult of personality, art, and the pressures of marriage, motherhood, and mental wellness. Kate is an archivist going through the less-than-organized files of famous artist Miranda Brand’s life so that her son, her one remaining relative, can sell it. The story is layered: it’s Miranda’s story it’s Kate’s, exploring both of their lives inside and out—who they are and who people think they are. I loved the ephemera from Miranda’s life—it was unique and interesting to get to hear her story actually in her own words, since she 1) isn’t the narrator and 2) is dead. I found myself looking forward to reading her bits—letters to her art dealer, news clippings, excerpts from her diary, even receipts—and not quite as interested in Kate’s story arc. People thought so many things about Miranda, everyone has something to say about her life and her mysterious death, but did anyone really know who she was? I also loved how the book ruminated on the creative process. Though it is specifically about Miranda’s photography, I was constantly seeing parallels to writing and other creative acts. Just another beautiful layer on top of the story. The ending wraps up perhaps a bit too nicely, but this is an incredibly strong debut novel, and I’ll be interested to see what Sligar comes up with next. My thanks to FSG/MCD for my advance copy of this one to read and review.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lolly K Dandeneau

    via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/ "That was how it was sometimes, in the archive. Big discoveries sandwiched between trash. The day-to-day touching the phenomenal." Kate Aitken, now an ex-journalist (copy editor), has a chance for a clean slate, it’s time to leave New York, which has become contaminated for her. Kate’s life has imploded, and a very important man has taken measures to make sure she does not find work anywhere. When Theo Brand, son of famed photographer Miranda Bra via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/ "That was how it was sometimes, in the archive. Big discoveries sandwiched between trash. The day-to-day touching the phenomenal." Kate Aitken, now an ex-journalist (copy editor), has a chance for a clean slate, it’s time to leave New York, which has become contaminated for her. Kate’s life has imploded, and a very important man has taken measures to make sure she does not find work anywhere. When Theo Brand, son of famed photographer Miranda Brand, hires her to archive his late mother’s work it is a chance for her to start fresh- in California. Her aunt is there, which is both a good thing and trying. It won’t be easy, not with a woman whose death is surrounded by mystery and rumors, many that follow Theo like a dark shadow. He confesses his mother was a bit of a pack rat, so one never knows what treasure or trash Kate will uncover. Theo himself isn’t the easiest man to figure out, nor the warmest and it certainly doesn’t help when her own aunt is sure he is worse than the locals say. That maybe he was involved in his mother’s mysterious death, despite being a child when she died. Her own life in a tailspin of sorts, Kate wonders if taking this job makes her vulnerable to danger. Sifting through the house most people would kill to snoop through, it is hard to separate fact from fiction. Could the many rumors and conspiracies be born from truth, isn’t that often the case? Doesn’t her own life have its own secrets and lies? Hasn’t she learned that a man can hide his dark nature behind his success, wealth and name? Is she attracted to Theo, or are the intense emotions, racing heart she feels around him a warning? After-all, she knows that attraction and panic often set off the same feelings within a person. Could he be as bad as everyone claims? It’s hard to think so seeing him interact with his children, even if her presence seems to upset something in him. Excavating Miranda Brand’s past is an emotional journey. Despite her awe inspiring talent, behind the artist was a woman who was falling apart, questioning herself, coping with the fragility of her mind. Everything Kate discovers feels like an exposure of a woman who wanted her private life to remain sealed. Art should stand alone, not be influenced by the person behind it. Instead of a contained woman, Kate discovers confessions, and painful admissions. Here was a woman who found mothering challenging and her marriage no better as it was under intense strain. A woman lacking much needed compassion and support, instead had a husband who seemed both exhausted by her needs and competitive over her work. Miranda missed who she was before the life she and her husband Jake created together. What made her decide to leave it, in such a dramatic, horrific fashion? Will Kate uncover more than Theo wants her too? Their relationship is unbalanced already, Kate arrives with her own future in ruins while Theo appears to be a man who has his life together. There belies a coldness in his desire to wrap up his mother’s life, now that his father is gone and he is free to take charge of the past and all it’s dirty secrets. For Theo, Miranda wasn’t a famous artist who died at the height of her career, she was his mother, at times a distant star physically and mentally. Why does he resent her? Seem to hate her? Answers may lie in Miranda’s diary, a discovery Kate intends to keep from Theo. It soon becomes obvious he has ulterior motives, could well be misleading and using her- but why? Her own wounds are fresh, the remnants of her own therapy sessions are a lifeboat to cling to as she sorts through Miranda’s past. Kate’s own narrative is as elusive, a thing we glimpse in starts and stops. Everything Miranda was suffering, particularly sensitive information that got out in public, is easy for Kate to relate to- however uncomfortable it feels. There are so many ways a woman is stripped of her armor. Two women, decades separating them, face metamorphism of the self. This is who I wanted to be, this is who life demanded me to become. For Miranda, her husband is unforgiving, treating her after her unraveling as something he is chained too. Kate’s fall from grace is a different sort of humiliation, an utter failure of the self. There are abuses both women suffer at the hands of men with the upper hand. For women, it is all about how people interpret you, be it your behavior, decisions, weaknesses, mental state or refusal to give in when it’s demanded of you. Death is silence, but Miranda could still have the last word. Does that frighten Theo? What if the truth challenges the story men, like he and his father, have controlled? What about Kate and her own voice, her own past? Is it wise to get tangled in desire for Theo? What if… what if Miranda was murdered? What kept me reading was Miranda’s story and how she was mistreated, demeaned and misinterpreted- even after her death. Though the person hardest on her, as is often the case with women, was herself. What it nails is how narrative can alter lives, for better or worse. Sometimes the truth must lie in wait, but it will have it’s pound of flesh. Sometimes it pushes us to be more too. Kate was harder for me to bond with, but Miranda- I think Miranda echoes what many women go through and feel too ashamed to give voice. Theo was important, but he wasn’t the heart of the story for me anymore than the attraction between he and Kate. I was in it for Miranda. You could feel the pain of feeling judged, especially for things you cannot help. How easy it is to fall from grace for showing yourself as a fragile human being and why people try and hide when they feel themselves slipping. The breaking is so much worse when the one who is meant to be your anchor fails you. A strong character in Miranda if the others lacked substance. She was worth reading! Publication Date: April 28. 2020 Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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