book review: Eden by Andrea Kleine

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EDEN by Andrea Kleine
★★★★☆
Houghton Mifflin, July 2018

 

What a fantastic hidden gem! Thanks for the rec, Sarah. Eden is a clear-eyed, engaging meditation on how the aftermath of trauma shapes the lives of two sisters who were kidnapped and held hostage for two days as teenagers. The story picks up twenty years after the event, and follows one of the sisters, Hope, as she navigates life in New York as a failing playwright, before she decides to finally get in touch with her sister Eden after years of estrangement.

Andrea Kleine’s writing is sharp and compelling; I never wanted to put this down when I was reading it. The plot is steady and engaging as it follows Hope’s road trip where she confronts a series of figures from her past in an effort to track down her sister, but where this book really shines is in its nuanced exploration of trauma, and the ways in which we allow our past to shape our present. It all sounds a bit trite, but I thought this book was anything but. It’s frank and candid, but the characters themselves are each layered and their relationship between the two sisters is both intriguing and painfully realistic.

The only thing I didn’t love about this book was some of the dialogue. It wasn’t uncommon for a paragraph of dialogue to span several pages, since a lot of these characters seemed to speak only in monologues. It stretched my suspension of disbelief just a bit that so many unrelated characters would speak in such a similar manner. Obviously it was a stylistic decision from Kleine – having each of these characters confront Hope so directly once she’s finally ready to dig into her past and the role each of them played – but the conversations themselves could have been executed more naturally, I felt.

But I did love this, for its candid tone and surprisingly thorough exploration of difficult themes, and its delightfully ambiguous ending which I found both satisfying and thought-provoking.

Thank you to Netgalley, Houghton Mifflin, and Andrea Kleine for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review.

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