Monday, 12 January 2015

Review: A Small Indiscretion by Jan Ellison

A Small Indiscretion fixes an unflinching eye on the power of desire and the danger of obsession as it unfolds the story of one woman’s reckoning with a youthful mistake.

At nineteen, Annie Black trades a bleak future in her washed-out hometown for a London winter of drinking to oblivion and yearning for deliverance. Some two decades later, she is married to a good man and settled in San Francisco, with a son and two daughters and a successful career designing artistic interior lights. One June morning, a photograph arrives in her mailbox, igniting an old longing and setting off a chain of events that rock the foundations of her marriage and threaten to overturn her family’s hard-won happiness.

The novel moves back and forth across time between San Francisco in the present and that distant winter in Europe. The two worlds converge and explode when the adult Annie returns to London seeking answers, her indiscretions come to light, and the phone rings with shocking news about her son. Now Annie must fight to save her family by piecing together the mystery of her past—the fateful collision of liberation and abandon and sexual desire that drew an invisible map of her future.
A Small Indiscretion is a riveting debut novel about a woman’s search for understanding and forgiveness, a taut exploration of a modern marriage, and of love—the kind that destroys, and the kind that redeems.

Hardcover, 336 pages
Expected publication: January 20th 2015 by Random House

Terri's Thoughts

I received an advanced copy of this novel from the publisher Random House via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.  The expected publication date is January 20th 2015.

This is going to be a difficult story for me to review as I struggled with identifying with any of the characters in the story.  This may cause my thoughts to fall slightly on the critical side when I am still undecided if the story deserves it.

This at the very core is a story about how actions in the past can come back to haunt the present day.  Simple enough in concept.  My issue ultimately lies in the character of Annie and my lack of sympathy for her.

I failed to see the attraction or connection Annie had with any of her romantic liaisons.  I simply could not see what attracted her to Malcolm, Patrick and even Jonathan and more importantly what they saw in her.  In my opinion she was insecure and selfish.  This can be traced to her addiction with alcohol which although it doesn't outright say she was an alcoholic the actions she takes in the story make it clear.  It made her entire story lack substance as she chased one guy who did not care about her and strung another along who did.  The tangled webs can not be described in this review for fear of giving away any spoilers.

What I found even more difficult than her poor decisions in her youth were the ones she made as an adult with a family.  This time the alcohol was not a crutch and she had a lot more to lose and yet she easily gave in to the bad decision making of her youth which causes a ripple effect in the lives around her.

While I found Annie to lack in any real redeeming qualities I still found myself eager to find out how her story played out.  While secretly feeling she didn't deserve a happy ending I still wanted to know if she got one or if she was punished for her indiscretions.  I will not divulge which way it went so that the reader can find out for themselves.

Overall a so-so story that had enough interest in it to see me through to the end.

About the Author

Jan Ellison is a graduate of Stanford and San Francisco State University’s MFA Program. She has published award-winning short fiction, and was the recipient of a 2007 O. Henry Prize for her first story to appear in print. Her work has also been short-listed for the Best American Short Stories and the Pushcart Prize. She lives in Northern California with her husband and their four children. A SMALL INDISCRETION is her first book.


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