Thursday, July 30, 2009

'Best Intentions'

by Emily Listfield
Fiction, 2009
Atria Books, hardback, 335 p.
What happens when you think you know the person you love – and you’re dead wrong?

After tossing and turning all night, thirty-nine-year-old Lisa Barkley wakes up well before her alarm sounds. As Lisa looks over at her sleeping husband, Sam, she can’t help but feel that their fifteen-year marriage is in a funk that she isn’t able to place. She tries to shake it off and tells herself that the strain must be due to their mounting financial pressures. But later that morning, as her family eats breakfast in the next room, Lisa finds herself checking Sam’s voicemail and hears a whispered phone call from a woman he is to meet that night. Is he having an affair?

When Lisa shares her suspicions with her best friend, Deirdre, at their weekly breakfast, Deirdre claims it can’t be true. But how can Lisa fully trust her opinion when Deirdre is still single and mired in an obsessive affair with a glamorous photographer even as it hovers on the edge of danger?

When Deirdre’s former college flame, Jack, comes to town and the two couples meet to celebrate his fortieth birthday, the stage is set for an explosive series of discoveries with devastating consequences.
I always seem to like stories that deal with the realization that we can never truly know someone else, that there are always secrets and things hidden from us even by those we love, and this proved to be an intelligently-written, compulsive read. I couldn’t seem to stop reading it (just one more chapter… ok, just one more…), staying up rather too late a couple of nights.

However, and this might sound like a contradiction, it didn’t fully grab me emotionally. By that I mean that while I enjoyed it while I was reading it, and I enjoyed the deconstruction of the main character’s paranoia once the seed of doubt had been planted, and I wanted to know who had been responsible for a certain tragic event, I wasn’t completely drawn into these characters lives. Maybe it was a timing thing, or too high expectations, as I’d previously read a few rave reviews. (You can see other bloggers’ opinions below). Don’t get me wrong though, I did like it. I guess I’d just hoped to be caught up in it more, to like it more than I did. And despite my minor lack of immersion in the story, it certainly kept me reading.

One aspect that makes it stand out from other similar books, is the fact that it’s both a character-based story and a plot-driven story combined. So it’s essentially women’s lit plus mystery/thriller rolled into one, which made for an enjoyable summer read.
The trajectory of any life, laid out across a table, reduced to jottings on a pad, would no doubt seem both damning and inane, our imperfections difficult to justify despite our best intentions.
The past is never really over. Our interpretation of it may shift like a kaleidoscope, it may inform us or lead us astray, it may bring comfort or delusion, an excuse to hate or a reason to love. Some of us race too quickly to try to escape it, some of us cling so tightly it blinds us to the present. But one way or another, it is always with us.
For more about the book and the author, visit Emily Listfield's website.
Read an excerpt of Best Intentions
Interview with the author at Just One More Page...
Guest post at Stone Soup

First sentence: I lie in bed watching the numbers on the digital alarm click in slow motion to 6:00 a.m., 6:01.

Buy this book at: | | | |

Thank you to Lauren for the opportunity read this book.

My Rating: 3.5/5
(#39 for 2009, ARC Reading Challenge)

Also reviewed at:
Farm Lane Books Blog
Dolce Bellezza
Madeleine's Book and Photo Blog
Book Chase
Word Lily
Popin's Lair
Stone Soup
She Is Too Fond of Books...
Book, Line, and Sinker
As usual, I need more bookshelves
A Bookworm's World
Shhh I'm Reading...
Peeking Between the Pages
Just one more page...
Breaking the Spine
S. Krishna's Books
If I've missed yours, let me know and I'll link to it here.


  1. I normally like stories that deal with that too. It's too bad it didn't completely grab you emotionally, but I think I'll pick it up sometime.

  2. Nymeth - It's had some good reviews so maybe it was just a timing/mood thing. And even still I couldn't put it down, especially near the end.

  3. Terrific review of this book - I agree, the book kept me reading and it was a great combo of women's fiction/mystery...but I think it could have almost done better without the mystery!

  4. Wendy - Exactly! I enjoyed the combination of relationship story with mystery but in the end I probably would've been happier without the mystery too. It was still a fun read though.


Thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I love hearing from you and I read every single one!

P.S. In an effort to eliminate spam, I moderate all comments, so there will most likely be a delay between when you submit the comment and when it appears on the post. Please let me know if you have any trouble leaving comments here, and you can also chat with me on Twitter, if you prefer. Happy Reading!