Things We Didn't Say by Kristina Riggle
Publication Date: June 2011
Publisher: Harper Collin's Publishers
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: Paperback, 352pp
(Received for review from TLC Tours)
Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound
Kristina Riggle on the WEB: website, facebook, twitter
Synopsis (Barnes & Noble):
What goes unsaid, can sometimes speak the loudest...
What makes up a family? For Casey it's sharing a house with her fiancee Michael and his three children, whom she intends to nurture more than she ever took care of herself. But Casey's plans have come undone. Michael's silences have grown unfathomable and deep. His daughter Angel seethes as only a teenage girl can, while the wide-eyed youngest, Jewel, takes it all in.
Then Michael's son, Dylan, runs off, and the kids' mother, a woman never afraid to say what she thinks, noisily barges into the home. That's when Casey decides that the silences can no longer continue. She must begin speaking the words that no else can say. She'll have to dig up secrets - including her own - uncovering the hurts, and begin the healing that is long overdue. And it all starts with just a few tentative words...
Author Kristina Riggle brings readers a story that is filled with words that have been left unsaid and things that haven't been talked about. Readers will love Riggle's three-dimensional characters and gritty, emotional family drama. This is a book about what constitutes a family and how to keep the lines of communication open when you most need them. Readers will love the way that Riggle is able to show a blended family in crisis and how they survive.
Casey has her mind made up, she's leaving, there's no turning back. Michael has become more and more sullen, and quiet. He doesn't talk about the things in their relationship or in his life that bother him. She had it all figured out. They would get married and raise his three kids together. She'd be the perfect mom and they'd have the perfect family. But it hasn't turned out that way. Michael doesn't seem interested in setting a date, all he thinks about his job that may be going down the tubes and his kids are about to make her pull her hair out. Just when she's decided she can't take any more and she's going to leave, Michael's son Dylan goes missing after he's dropped off at school. She can't go yet. Then Michael's daughter finds her journal and reads her most private thoughts and intends to broadcast them. To make matters worse, Micheal's ex-wife, Mallory shows up and things go from bad to worse. Can this family survive this crisis with so many things left unsaid? Will Casey still leave once everything settles down? Is there light at the end of the tunnel when everything seems lost?
There is a lot going on in this book. It's essentially a novel about a blended family that is having some real issues. Casey the heroine is ten years younger than her fiancee Michael. He has three kids from his previous marriage and they aren't exactly a picnic. But, Casey is willing to try to make a home for them all together, but she eventually becomes overwhelmed by everything and decides she has to leave. At that exact moment one of the kids decides to run away and the family is thrown into crisis mode. There is sooo much emotion going on in this book, that it can be a little exhausting. I thought the author did a fantastic job of showing some of the issues that blended families have to deal with. The angry ex, the kids resenting the new woman in their dads life etc. I thought the plot was very convincing and current. There are so many families like this in today's society and many people can relate.
At first I wasn't too sure that I was going to like Casey. I kind of had the impression that she was giving up too quickly, that she should have expected there to be issues that would have to be worked out. You don't just step into a ready made family and think everything is going to be smooth sailing. But, as I continued to read, I started to understand her character a little more. She was basically just overwhelmed by everything. She admires the fact that Michael has custody of his children, but she really didn't understand what that meant until she was faced with it. She loved Michael but she wasn't ready to deal with all of problems his ex-wife would give them, and the problems the children themselves would cause. Micheal seems to just close down and doesn't make an effort to try to solve anything. So what is she supposed to do? Stay where she's miserable... or leave? It's quite the decision and the author does a great job of showing Casey's inner conflict.
The other characters in the book were also having problems adjusting to everything. Not only does Michael have a new woman in his life that his ex-wife can't stand and his kids are resentful of, but he's about to loose his job as a reporter for the local paper. Instead of talking to Casey about everything that's bothering him, he clams up. He is used to being in control and I think he was feeling a bit out of his element. Where do I go from here? I love this woman, but my kids don't. We are going to have to deal with my ex-wife as long as the kids are still at home? What if I loose my job? He is a character that I tried to like, but I had a hard time of it. I sympathized with him. I understood what he was going through, been there done that... but he just didn't grab me as a reader. I think the author did a good job writing him, but he didn't float my boat, LOL!
Riggle does an excellent job with the secondary characters in the book. The ex-wife and the kids really made the story. If it had just been Casey and Michael there wouldn't have been much to fight about or not fight about as was the case with this one. Communication is so important in families. I liked the fact that the author allowed her characters to have flaws, like a normal family. Angel the teenage daughter was a typical teen. She was angry and probably hurt and she acted out accordingly. I thought Riggle was able to write from a teenage perspective very well. Her expressions and attitudes were spot on, I thought. Mallory was interesting. An alcoholic with some mental issues. She doesn't have custody of her kids and she doesn't like Micheal's new woman. She was a villein, but not exactly the really mean and evil kind. She made it interesting for sure.
I liked this book, it was probably not one I would consider a favorite or anything. There were a lot of good things and some things that I didn't like as much. I love stories about families especially blended families since I have one of those myself. But, this one was a little too heavy for me. I had to read it in spurts, but that's not to say that someone else wouldn't have loved it. I thought it was well written, it was current, it was heart-wrenching, but it just wasn't my cup of tea. Every book doesn't have to turn out perfect for me or have a happy ending, I just have to find something I like. There was some of both in this one.
I recommend this one to readers who love stories about family dynamics and how people relate to each other. It will probably really speak to parents and children of divorced families. It shows the messy side of things and that's not always a bad thing. It isn't a lengthy book, but also isn't one I'd take on vacation. Unless I had a box of Kleenex or two...
Things We Didn't Say is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.
I'm giving this one 3 out of 5 apples... I liked it, I just didn't love it!
Kristina Riggle lives and writes in West Michigan. Her debut novel, Real Life & Liars, was praised by Publishers Weekly for its "humorous and humane storytelling" and by Booklist as "a moving and accomplished first novel." The book was a Target "Breakout" pick and a "Great Lakes and Great Reads" selection by the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association. The Life You've Imagined was honored as an "IndieNext Notable" book by independent booksellers.
Kristina has published short stories in the Cimarron Review, Literary Mama, Expresso Fiction, and elsewhere. She is also a freelance journalist writing primarily for The Grand Rapids Press, and co-editor of fiction at Literary Mama. Kristina was a full time newspaper reporter for seven years before turning her attention to creative writing and freelancing. As well as writing she enjoys reading, yoga, dabbling in (very) amateur musical theatre, and spending lots of time with her husband, two kids and dog.