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The Family Friend by C.C. MacDonald

Brilliant new psychological thriller.

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Erin lives an idyllic life by the seaside with her baby boy and handsome Australian fiancée. She’s upbeat and happy – a natural mum. At least that’s what her thousands of followers on Instagram think. 

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Rating: 2 out of 5.

The Family Friend by C.C. MacDonald

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I loved the tension in this one. I would like to thank Random House UK, Vintage for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program. I think anyone looking for a modern read about social media with a bit of a unique twist on side story/pastime hobbies/dabbles you wouldn’t expect, will enjoy this one.

The Story
The overall premise was interesting. The story encompassed important issues of mother-child bonding, the waxes and wanes of having a public life on social media, and relational development, all of which I loved the insight, the perspective, the impact in the way it was portrayed.

I loved some of the social media effects pointed out in the story like forgetting that there are people in existence who don’t judge.

I really enjoyed how developmentally the story sparkled. This tension was kept tight in nature with good timing of reveal of the side stories, the peculiar elements, the intrigue of questioning if this was going to turn supernatural or stay within a realm of certain contextual, highly calculated, psychological play on the mind.

The slower pacing at the beginning however became too slow and content-wise, I would have liked to have seen signs of what was to come in a subtle way, hidden leads to red herrings, rather than focus on the plot as the driving force outright because when it was slow, it was really slow.

The Atmosphere
The atmosphere was driven by the plot but I think could have had a little more spark to tying into the personality of the characters and the world they lived it, how they perceived it as a defining characteristic unique to each character. There were parts that were spot on, others a little more safe and hesitant, that could have been enhanced, whether nuanced or overt, to bring out their personalities a little more.

Pacing
Page 72 is when it picked up for me, almost DNF’d it around 30. The beginning mettled around the slowest parts, drawn out, dramatizing the drama, extending the drama, dramatizing even more drama.

The Ending
The worst part for me was the ending. I liked certain aspects of how elements were tied together but then, spoiler alert, (view spoiler)[the coroner didn’t even request an inquest? All of that work to build a tight story and bam, no proper police procedural? It all came down to something that made a bit of sense, but when the end that would have been justified by the means, it concluded with a sloppy, overlooked police investigation? No satisfying remediation? OMG. #unsatisfyingendings. Too easy of a get away. It was a wiping of hands clean in a story for the amount of time I spent with the characters for it to end like that (hide spoiler)].

The Writing
Great at keeping the tension and chapter transition with good pick up sentences. Probably my favorite part of the writing.

The POV/tense felt inconsistent. I had often wondered if it might have been better served in first person/past tense perhaps. Times I connected with it, other times I had to think hard and I didn’t want to have to think that hard with this one. Especially with the interruptions of social media posts which I didn’t alway understand in their context/hashtag use.

It’s omnipresent action commentary but doesn’t dive deep enough into their thoughts and the separation is inconsistent. Some contrary to what I already thought and expected of the characters in my mind.

Descriptions
The beginning was rocky for me. It was pronoun verb, pronoun verb. Adjective noun, adjective noun.

I think there could have been a bit more creativity in the descriptions for a bit more something something. A bit more variety. Sometimes simple is great. Sometimes simple is boring. Example, instead of middle-aged man, something like beginning to gray, faint roots of gray, gray at the temples, peppered beard, or beginning of some sort of comment on facial lines or age spots, some sort of description to show rather than tell.

Atmospheric consistency in description was an issue for me. Like I imagine where this takes place in the hemisphere based off what I’m being told about the scene, but one day is described as cold January, yet descriptions of a grassy hill are noted. I just feel that if something is described in writing, it should reinforce the atmosphere. The feelings of a cold January were mentioned, but then to switch to a visual most would probably associate with summer was a bit weird for me. Grassy was unnecessarily mentioned again, no strength or purpose given to repeating this again. Would have probably been better served as withered lawn or tindered lawn or frosted fields or dusting of frost on the mountainside or the windy draft bit my cheeks. I don’t know, cold January, followed by grass (as in my visual of live, green, healthy, thriving grass), just didn’t put me in the scene very well.

Characters
I don’t think you have to like every character, but spoiler alert, (view spoiler)[she’s kind of mean (hide spoiler)]. And that would be ok, except I’m not sure if that was the intent. There were certain disconnects between the characters, their actions, and dialogue. Especially toward the end. The two ladies became so squirrely with their trajectory. It became a game of I love you, I love you not. I love you, I love you not. The main, contempt for her son, there was this sort of this misplaced character arc where I wanted to be satisfied in my mind rather than this moral obligation to wrap it all together neatly at the end. And then the end, my thoughts already said, but characters didn’t match or counter the strong emotion I wanted to see restitution with.

Kind of disconnections with interactions, it was hard to gauge where characters stand with each other. It was hard to make the connection of how the characters came to know each other from the beginning. It was more of a telling review style over hints of showing readers the information the author wanted us to have.

A lot of over-explanation and pointing out rationales of behavior and back story. Kind of come to know things about the characters a little too late.

Sometimes I felt like I was diving into a conversation I didn’t know anything about. There was quite a bit of repetition in the beginning, like Ground Hog’s Day movie repetition of activity.

Dialogue
And it was hard to follow the dialogue. Certain tensions of example argument suddenly jolted into a jovial conversation. Even in the dialogue the characters switched opinions during the middle of the conversation. I thought one was thinking/leading to a certain way, the it’s suddenly they were contradictory.

Overall I think the suspense elements could have been strengthened by a few bits that would have made this story and the writing move from ok to fantastic. Plenty of the it factor was there from a creative aspect, but not executed as strong as it could have been for me. I’ll be curious to read more by this author.

View all my reviews

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