Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Book Review: Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane

Solid Characters in an Implausible Plot

I like plot, reading for the tension, suspense, and unexpected twists that the best authors can craft.  For me, characters are in books largely to move the plot forward.  But characters can also be captivating, as Since We Fell reminded me.  Unfortunately for this book, those fascinating and nuanced individuals populate a plot that was often unbelievable and always convenient.

Rachel Childs, the protagonist of Since We Fell, felt real to me and quite easy to like.  In the early chapters, Lehane paints her as a woman who is utterly alone – emotionally, psychologically, and physically.  By the middle of the book, she has suffered her on-air mental breakdown and is a virtual shut-in.  She is a well-developed, complex character through these sections.  Her final transformation seemed a bit over-the-top to me, but extreme situations might call for reaching into the depths of one’s psyche and drawing on capacities rarely seen.

Although a bit slow paced initially, I generally enjoyed the author’s writing style, particularly some of the visual similes.  This type of comparison is easy to overuse, but Lehane hits a good rhythm.  And the end is action packed.

The weakness of the book, however, was the plot.  It simply strained credibility too much for me to remain immersed in the story.  There are several, specific scenes that were questionable, e.g., an interaction between Rachel and a detective or several scenes involving the villains.  Those, however, could be written off as a necessary stretch of the imagination.  But it was the primary ‘twist,’ the turning point in the story that came about two-thirds of the way through the book that pushed the story beyond believability.  While it forced me to re-characterize much of the action, which good twists will do, it also made everything that had and would happen convenient and generally trite.

Overall, I loved Rachel’s climb back out of self-doubt and despair.  If you’re a reader who values character development and vivid prose even when not fully supported by plot, you should enjoy Since We Fell.