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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Intriguing Premise, Disappointing Execution

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Stillwater Bay, Maine, is the kind of tiny, close-knit community where nothing bad ever happens.  Until it does.  

It's been a month since a local teen barged into the elementary school, shooting ten kids and two teachers before turning the gun on himself.  Although the residents of Stillwater Bay are still reeling from the shocking incident, Mayor Charlotte Stone thinks it's time for the town to move past the tragedy.  Re-opening the school, she reasons, will bring some peace to the grief-stricken town.  Her husband, the school principal, feels the same.     

Her best friend, Jennifer Crowne, does not agree.  The thought of innocent children streaming through the halls where her son died so horrifically fills her with a rage so fiery and deep, she can barely suppress it.  Alcohol numbs her fury, but only so much—and only for so long.  Jenn wants the school torn down; it's the only thing that might ease her suffering.  

While residents clash over the school closure/opening issue, Charlotte struggles to keep the community together.  Not only is she losing her best friend, but her husband seems to be hiding something as well.  Jennifer knows she may be giving up everything—and everyone—she loves to fight a battle she can't win, but she has to do it for herself, for her son.  Nothing is more important.

As friends and neighbors chose sides, tempers flare and relationships are put to the ultimate test.  Can a town already so scarred come out unscathed?  Can it weather this most devastating of storms?  The odds are not looking good ...

I'm always interested in books—fictional or otherwise—that look at how communities deal with crises.  The human drama fascinates me.  That's why the premise of Stillwater Rising, Steena Holmes' newest, piqued my curiosity.  But, while the book definitely has drama, what it doesn't really have is a plot.  The story is more reaction than action, which makes it dull.  The central conflict (to close the school or not) just isn't big enough to carry a whole novel.  Plus, the characters remain pretty flat throughout the book.  Jenn is so childish and self-centered that it's difficult to empathize with her.  The other characters run together, making it tough to keep track of who's who.  Even the Big Reveal isn't much of a surprise.  It's predictable and comes so late in the story that the whole novel feels not just unresolved, but unsatisfying.  So, while I liked the idea of Stillwater Rising, overall, I found the read a disappointing one.     

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult, One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf, and a little of And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:  

for mild language (no F-bombs), intense situations, and vague references to sex

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of Stillwater Rising from the generous folks at Lake Union Publishing (a division of Amazon Publishing) via those at Booksparks PR.  Thank you!

1 comment:

  1. Too bad it disappointed because the premise was a good one. Looks like it had potential.


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